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What can we do in lockdown?

David Dass

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COMMENT | It looks like the entire world is going into lockdown. People are being confined to their homes. Social distancing. Except for essential services, all work has stopped. Some work from homes,

Otherwise, there is quiet. Total silence. The streets are empty. The sound of the motor car is eerily absent.

We hear the wind whirl through the leaves of trees. We hear birds chirping excitedly among themselves. The sky over China clears. Husbands talk to wives. Families huddle together and find ways to keep everyone occupied. Parents try teaching their children with textbooks and assigned homework.

These are good things.

People are inundated with news about the virus. And with hundreds of shares in social media. Anxiety levels rise. The number of people infected and dying mount everywhere.

Powerful nations like China, US, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Spain, France and Germany battle with an invisible enemy.

Cruise ships with infected persons cannot find safe harbour. Japan holds one cruise liner at port but will not allow passengers to disembark even as the virus rages among the passengers. Many are infected. Cambodia allows a cruise ship to come to port and passengers to disembark. So does Cuba and Singapore. Humanitarian gestures. Big nations charter planes to fly stranded nationals back home.

The world had watched China lock down a city and a province. More than 60 million people. They watched China build two hospitals virtually overnight and refurbish 14 other buildings to provide space for infected patients.

Few nations used the time to prepare themselves for what was to become a global pandemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) was slow to call it a pandemic fearing that it would cause worldwide panic. They were wrong.

The virus rapidly spread.

China was short of everything but its ability to manufacture, produce and construct things at great speed was astonishing. Now China appears to have managed or controlled the problem. New infections are few.

Singapore seems to have been able to prevent the virus from spreading to the general population without a lockdown. South Korea also appears to be managing it effectively.

Not so Italy and Spain. US numbers are beginning to mount. And several cities and some states are going into lockdown. Governors implore the president to use federal power and money to help.

All nations are facing shortages of medical supplies, drugs, masks, safety suits and ventilators. China now aids everybody. It has become a powerhouse.

An American correspondent and writer says that Trump should drop his trade war with China as the US and the rest of the world will need China's money, China's scientific intelligence and enormous manufacturing capability to alleviate the inevitable recession looming ahead.

Come together

This is a crisis facing all of humanity. We must rise above our politics of hate and division to overcome a common deadly foe. We must come together nationally and internationally. Rich nations must help poor nations. The US must lift sanctions on Iran to help it raise money to fight the crisis.

Domestically, the poor must be helped. They suffer the most. They do not have the savings to tide them over during the period of the lockdown. The US and the UK have the funds to pay to support businesses and to put money in the hands of the unemployed and the poor. Poorer nations may not have the funds to do that adequately.

This is a time for people to reflect and pray. To dig deeply into themselves and their faiths and ask the question - what does God expect of them?

Give generously to charities who help the poor, the handicapped, the infirm, the aged and the orphans. Do not wait for the government or for the other people to step up. Contact your mosque, your temple or your church. There are also many charities and service organisations who have the volunteers and the infrastructure to reach out to those who need food and other assistance. Give generously.

Rise above petty politics. Transcend racial. cultural and religious differences. Come together in our common humanity to help the needy. Let some good come from this deadly scourge.


DAVID DASS is a senior lawyer and a Malaysiakini subscriber.

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