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Joint responsibility

Nov 01,2020 - Last updated at Nov 01,2020

The situation regarding COVID-19 has greatly deteriorated in our society, due to the sharp rise in infections, to the substantial number of deaths, and to the spread of the virus in essentially all parts of the country.

The million dollar question now is, what to do about it?

The blame game will not help: i.e. the government blaming the people for not taking the disease seriously at first and for ignoring instructions and guidelines; and the people blaming the government, especially the previous government, for not being prompt enough, efficient enough, and ready enough.

Let us not cry over spilled milk.

What is required, especially at this point in time, is for each party to shoulder its responsibilities religiously, as the responsibility is mutual.

The people must do what is expected of them, and the government must do what is expected of it.

As far as the people are concerned, they must observe the rules to the letter; and there is no room for laxity.

A study of good international practices, i.e. the countries that are considered success stories in tackling COVID-19, reveals that a crucial factor in confronting and limiting both the spread of the virus and of its negative impact has largely to do with people’s conduct on a daily basis.

Highly disciplined people who wear masks at all required times, practice physical distancing day and night, avoid crowds and social gatherings of sorts, and observe the correct cleanliness habits, have greatly succeeded in containing the virus and preventing its spread and disastrous effects.

It is all about observance of regulations and all about discipline.

This is the story we learn from the Taiwanese, the South Korean, the Japanese, and even the Chinese experiences.

Why cannot our people do the same?

In principle, they can and should, even though culturally speaking discipline has not been a virtue for our modern-day culture.

The family, the school and the various societal institutions concerned have not succeeded in instilling and enforcing disciplined individual conduct in daily situations.

Perhaps, and ironically so, what we as a country have failed to do voluntarily on our own, COVID-19 will force us to achieve.

Ultimately, the message is simple: fighting COVID-19 is neither difficult nor costly. All people have to do is to implement what the peoples of the nations just mentioned implemented.

This is not too much to ask; and if people do not learn to do the obvious in ordinary times, they must learn to do it the hard way in extraordinary times.

As far as the government is concerned, a lot is expected of it. I will confine myself here to some of what it should be urgently doing.

First and for most, it needs to conduct a quick and efficient review of what went wrong to date, so as to do what is right, avoiding and rectifying the previous failings and mistakes.

Secondly, it has to continue to spread awareness among the people regardless of how responsive or not the people are. If it insists, results may and will happen; if it gives up and starts playing the blame game, no results will happen.

Thirdly, it should keep abreast of the latest developments regarding what we scientifically know about COVID-19 and should keep disseminating and spreading the correct and accurate messages to people. The more we know about the virus and the more the information is conveyed to people, the more armed we will be in fighting this virus.

Fourthly, the government needs to work on qualifying the health sector to enable it to cope with the virus and with any other future health threats.

Since COVID-19 hit last March, we learned a lot about the limitations and shortcomings of our health system, many of which we were not previously aware.

There is an opportunity now for the government to rectify these shortcomings and introduce and enforce all the necessary changes in order to make the system more efficient and robust, taking into account that we have all that it takes to create a relevant, vibrant, and advanced health system.

This is the other part of the story we hear from successful international experiences: Those in charge of the health systems in these countries have the vision, the will, and the management skills to realise expectations and achieve the desired results.

Admit it or not, our responsibility is joint; and each party should live up to what is expected of it.

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