LETTER | Can Pak Salleh and Mr Ong drive off in a car?

Hafiz Hassan

Modified 8 Jun 2021, 2:38 am

LETTER | Pak Salleh and Mak Kiah are husband and wife. They usually go out together in their car to a nearby supermarket to obtain food, necessary supplies and medicines. On June 6, they did just that. At the supermarket they met Mr and Mrs Ong, friends from a neighbouring taman (housing estate).

While Mak Kiah and Mrs Ong set out to get their weekly supplies, Pak Salleh and Mr Ong cooked up a chat. Mr Ong told Pak Salleh that he was driving his son’s new Toyota Corolla. Pak Salleh was excited to hear of the new Corolla and wished that he could “test-drive” the car. Mr Ong was as friendly as ever and offered his old friend a drive in the car.

So, with Mr Ong in the driver’s seat and Pak Salleh next to Mr Ong, they set off on a drive, leaving their spouses to complete their “shopping”.

Little did both friends realise that they had violated the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the National Security Council (NSC), which came into force from June 1 until June 14. The SOP states that only two people from the same household are allowed out to obtain food, necessary supplies and medicine in areas within 10km of their residence.

The SOP also states that only two people – including the driver – are allowed to travel in taxis and e-hailing rides. The passenger must be seated in the back seat. So, if there are two people from different households, one must be seated in the back seat.

The purpose of the SOP is obvious. It is to restrict the inter-mingling of people from different households to reduce the rate of transmission of the disease (Covid-19).

Since the emergence of the disease and the eventual declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the primary measure used almost universally by countries worldwide to control transmission of the disease has been to limit human to human contact through social distancing and restrictions on movement.

Pak Salleh may not have test-driven the new Toyota Corolla because it was Mr Ong who took him for a drive. In any case, test-driving a car may not offend the SOP. But, two people from different households and seated next to each other in a car arguably violates the SOP.

The word is “arguably” because the authorities – the investigating and/or the prosecuting – may find that no violation has occurred.

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