Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay United.

By Jaziri Alkaf A. Suffian

Six weeks ago, our nation plunged into a state of uncertainty. Our daily lives were disrupted with significant impact, as many were people fearing job losses, income instability and being cut off from loved ones. 

The coronavirus crisis, which has infected millions of people worldwide, has rocked the Malaysian economy and has majorly affected our livelihoods.

It is imperative to consider and take proactive measures to mitigate the socio-economic changes through the pandemic, prompting our Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to announce the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) on 27th March worth a total of RM260 billion.

The recent conditional uplifting of the Movement Restriction Order (MRO) will further assist to stabilize the economic repercussions at the same time taking account the effect it will give to the wellbeing and social care of our rakyat.

We cannot be more thankful to the health professionals and the front liners who leave the comfort of their homes to face the uncertainty of the crisis in making sure that the population is safe from further infection and to contain the spread of the disease.

Maximum resources were diverted immediately towards strengthening our healthcare and the support systems.  

While it seems to be all gloom and doom, the pandemic and its lockdown effect has also shown us the brighter side of things.

 Probably the most obvious one would be on our environment. We see the effect that we have been fighting to achieve, through global initiatives to reduce pollution, in just a relatively small drop in the intensity of human activity.

Reports and photos captured the flourishing and re-emergence of nature, resulting in clear blue skies and clean rivers.

We cannot unsee what is very visible for us to enjoy and appreciate. A lot of us will now pay closer attention to the effect that we have on mother nature.

Perhaps this renewed appreciation for nature will remain with us for a very long time?

 We find ourselves suddenly adjusting to new routines. Being quarantined at home unleashes the opportunity to bring out our creative sides.

Containment has bred creativity. It has required us to revamp how we interact and work in different ways that force us to become more innovative.

As people stay indoors, we are more active online than ever. People have formed social media groups to share their creations and give others inspiration.

People are investing time and energy in their community and relationships. We find campaigns like making homemade facemasks, having celebrated actors reading to our children, streaming musical concerts, YouTube workouts, which helps people to find ways to stay connected, be entertained, and thrive during this lockdown. 

We have had to now find ourselves ways to innovate and be creative in the education ecosystem. Educators have embraced creativity and innovation to facilitate learning and interact with their students.

Open source learning mounting up to hundreds of thousands of free hours and virtual learnings are being maximized, to both keep the learning environment alive, and maintain the level of social interaction.

However, there is one value that has emerged significantly as a result of this lockdown effect: empathy. We find ourselves more empathetic to others.

 On media social and online sites, people come together to pledge support to help fundraise or donate food supplies for the less unfortunate, who are more vulnerable in facing this crisis.

Many NGO groups get together and initiate online social movement. They offer to help by providing meals, charity funds, etc.

Social movement like the #kitajagakita has a contagious effect, has helped tens of thousands of people across the nation, and in effect bring communities closer together. 

Learning institutions and design communities are coming together to help the shortage of face masks by producing tens of thousands of custom-designed 3D printed face shields to aid our health workers.

 There are many cases where we find ourselves the urge to help the front liners by a simple act of sending them bottled water or provide them meals, as we understand their condition of work and the long hours.

We have become more grateful enforcing some paradigm shifts in our lives. 

We will value connections on a much deeper level. This commonality will bring us closer together not only because of this crisis but also of our common humanity.

Being in bubbles of isolation at our homes have meant that we spend more time with our loved ones thus improving familial bonds.

I believe there will be good changes once it all ends. This crisis has created the opportunity for us to relook at our behavior in ways that will be increasingly humane and more compassionate.

Perhaps this will make our enhanced value system in this society of ours and enrich us in the years to come as a nation? The silver lining will be the change that may stay with us for a very very long time.

In these uncertain times, what is certain is that we have each other. Isolation and quarantine that seems to keep us apart, brings us all closer together. Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay united.

Jaziri Alkaf A. Suffian is an education entrepreneur, architect and the Head of Bersatu Sarawak.

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