Dear Malaysians, together we can break the Covid-19 chain

Dear Malaysians,

Today marks Day 5 of the movement control order enforced by the National Security Council to prevent the spread of Covid-19, or more commonly known as the coronavirus.

I understand many of us panicked in the beginning, not knowing exactly what to do and how to adhere to the MCO regulations properly. Now, it is becoming much clearer.

The MCO aims to enforce social distancing, to ensure that Malaysians stay home to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through human contact or close proximity with those who are suspected to be carrying the virus.

Essentially, the government wants to flatten the curve to slow the spread of the virus. This can save hundreds of thousands of lives. Even for those who don’t experience symptoms, it could be possible that they are carriers of the Covid-19 virus.

In the many NSC meetings in the last few days, I have personally seen how hard the health minister, the health director-general and the ministry are working. I have so much respect for them and I am confident our healthcare system has been fighting Covid-19 as effectively as they can.

But this is where we come in as Malaysians to help. We need to ensure our healthcare system is not overwhelmed by a spike in the number of cases by ensuring we stay home, which prevent us from unknowingly spreading or catching Covid-19 to and from those around us.

Save our doctors and nurses – stay home

A slower infection rate means a less stressed healthcare system, fewer hospital visits and fewer sick people being turned away from crucial medical assistance. It also means we as Malaysians can reduce our risk of catching Covid-19.

It’s simple: we should not leave our house except for essentials such as food or medicine. I understand we as Malaysians are used to heading out, gathering with friends and family. Socialising is a key part of our culture. But this pandemic is forcing us to make sudden and drastic changes to our lifestyles, and this will be our new normal for the next few weeks.

Trade a little of our freedom for the greater good of all Malaysians.

Remember, Covid-19 does not discriminate. The virus does not choose to infect based on the colour of your skin, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are old or young. It does not target a specific group of people. We are all potential victims.

These are uncertain times and we need each other more than ever.

It is important for us to remind ourselves as Covid-19 does not discriminate, our response should not too.

On that front, the Malaysian government has worked tirelessly with international governments to assist our efforts in containing Covid-19.

For example, we at Wisma Putra have engaged China to obtain assistance for medical equipment supplies such as face masks, hand sanitisers and protective equipment for our frontliners.

We’re also working with our neighbours such as Indonesia to help share information and help with contact tracing for our nationals attending mass events; and Singapore to ensure essential services that rely on the border of Singapore and Johor remain secure and safe.

We are also continuously engaging our brothers in the Middle East to receive any further support and equipment required to boost Malaysia’s efforts in containing Covid-19.

Personally, I am pleasantly surprised at the positive response and willingness from our international partners to assist Malaysia in these difficult times. I know this is not because I am the foreign affairs minister, but rather they are doing this because of Malaysia, the residual goodwill towards us and the respect they have for us as an ally in the global community.

But now, as Malaysians, we must realise that the world is looking at us to keep up the mark and pull our weight in fighting Covid-19. We must be disciplined and united in adhering to the MCO to be a beacon of hope to other nations who wish to replicate our methods.

In the beginning, many Malaysians were stranded overseas due to restrictions in the respective countries they are in. We at Wisma Putra worked tirelessly to bring them back but then some Malaysians viewed it negatively. Some went on social media complaining that we shouldn’t bring our people back due to the risk of them also bringing Covid-19 with them.

A time to unite and fight the battle together

Let me make this clear, I will not compromise our efforts to bring Malaysians back to the homeland. It is our right as Malaysians to come home.

But to those who have just returned, please adhere to the MCO. Please quarantine yourselves for 14 days as instructed by the authorities. If you show symptoms, please head to your nearest hospital or clinic. It may seem like a burden, but this small step can prevent the virus from spreading further. The government and Wisma Putra have worked hard to bring you back, so act responsibly.

This is a time for hate and differences to be put aside and public health prioritised. We should all enforce this message through press conferences, statements and through social media.

This is an opportunity for us as Malaysians to unite. Prevent the spread of fake news and keep ourselves healthy. The safety of our country and the welfare of our people is paramount.

We have gone through so much together, but this is my plea to remain calm and do the right thing. We can overcome this, and I am confident we will overcome this crisis even stronger than we have before.

There is good in every crisis, and we must praise our heroic frontliners confronting Covid-19 head on. The doctors and nurses in emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics caring for our patients, officers on duty at airports and border entry points, the police and military for ensuring Malaysians adhere to the MCO – I salute you.

While we all face a long road ahead, I am sure this period will go down in history as a true testament of the Malaysian spirit. Remember, our forefathers fought for Malaysia to be our nation, to be free. Now it’s our turn to make sure our nation stays safe. Let’s ensure our children and grandchildren get a brighter future, free of Covid-19.

Break the chain. Flatten the curve. Together we can do something. Stay safe, stay home and most importantly stay strong.

Hishammuddin Hussein is the foreign affairs minister.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.