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COMMENT | The need for an exit strategy and adapting to the new normal

COMMENT | The government is facing an uphill battle against Covid-19, pressed against time with limited resources at its disposal.

The quick responses from the government to do testings, contact tracing, isolation of confirmed cases, advising social distancing, enacting the movement control order (MCO) and the announcement of an economic stimulus package are commendable.

However, these actions are far from sufficient to contain the virus and won't be able to sustain a society in the future.

Even with the steps taken by the government, we still see several groups of individuals ignoring the advice and orders given. It is time for the government to ditch ad hoc approaches to make way for a more radical, sustainable exit strategy and introduce new normal to the society post-MCO.

The lockdown cannot last forever, and we need an exit strategy. The status quo as we know it is diminished, and we need to adapt to new normals in life.

Firstly, the government needs to handle the dissemination of information diligently. Information shared amongst government departments and agencies need to be precise and consistent.

Communication with the public needs to be carefully articulated. We need to get information understood and reach every member of the society to avoid scenarios similar to EPF and TBS from happening again.

Cheap, if not free, walk-in testing facilities also need to be introduced all over Malaysia for everyone to access, similar to what the South Korean government is doing.

Using masks must be a norm and sanitising stations must be provided at all public spaces to promote better hygienic practice among the public.

Improving digital infrastructure is also important to shift to a more crisis and future-proof society. Our over-reliance on physical contact point has seen many government facilities and departments left paralyzed with little to no alternatives.

Our education system also has to be reevaluated and adjusted. We can no longer be overdependent on physical classes and start shifting towards digital education.

Strict social distancing has to be considered as a long-term lifestyle, especially in daily activities such as grocery shopping, bank visits, and leisure activities. Public gatherings such as sports and entertainment events, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, and religious gatherings need to be revised with the inclusion of strict crowd control policies.

Our industries have to be able to adapt and survive abrupt changes seamlessly. We have been ignoring technological advancements for far too long. It is time for the government to introduce new policies and incentives for the implementation of automation on a large-scale. Tax exemptions, priority for government tenders and schemes are tools the government can use to encourage the transition to a more technology-savvy industry.

Similarly, graduates and local talents must equip themselves with skills and ability to not only participate in an ever-changing work environment. They must be prepared to adapt to, and survive in, inevitable adjustments that companies will deploy from time to time.

These changes may seem daunting, but it’s a small cost to pay compared to the lives, jobs and economic losses that we may incur if we don’t do it now and quickly. Our daily life will definitely change, but our will to live, our faith, and our resilience will be stronger than ever.

MOHAMED KHALED NORDIN is Umno vice-president.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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