Not many can say they didn’t see it coming but just about an hour ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson went on national television with one simple instruction:
You must stay at home.Boris Johnson
As of tonight, like in many other parts of the world currently, people are not allowed to leave their homes. The Prime Minister offered four exceptions: essentials (but with a plea to get things delivered or stretched out as much as possible), medical need or to care for vulnerable persons, work that cannot be done at home and one form of exercise a day.
At this point, it seems like the restrictions in the UK and Malaysia are almost on par which will hopefully ease a little this bit of dissonance in my head trying to keep up with different policies, as I blogged about yesterday. The difference is that in Malaysia, you’re not allowed to go out even for exercise although I’ve been seeing posts of friends on social media ‘creatively’ navigating that.
I won’t be surprised if the UK follows suit soon – even with advice to spend as much time indoors as possible, the nature reserve walk I did with my friends yesterday was too busy for our liking and we said we’d have to look for an alternative option. Not anymore, I suppose, at least for now.
What has been fascinating for me however is observing reaction on Twitter from some people I know lamenting (I’m being generous here with this choice of term – some of them are livid) that the UK is now essentially a police state. There are obviously a lot of disagreements; many are responding to them saying that these are unusual times and surely that these are necessary measures.
It did make me wonder about my reaction to this news, and how I’ve been anticipating it. I wonder if it’s because I have a very different relationship with freedom and individualism as some of my friends, in that I grew up in what was essentially a quasi-democractic state and as such, I’m more used to restrictions being imposed on me. Something to talk to the therapist about!
In any case, Boris’ choice of words were interesting to me because they made me think of the call by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin a couple of days after the announcement of the Movement Control Order, when he told people to “duduklah diam-diam di rumah” (sit quietly at home). I thought the use of the “lah” made his call less stern, and the whole “diam-diam” bit evoked memories of primary school teachers chastising their students for talking in class.
Naturally, that line made its rounds on Twitterjaya as part of many jokes. But the message was clear: people are not following the rules. People I know in Malaysia have been very vocal about abusing and shaming others who are still out frolicking and gallivanting at the expense of others.
The number of people who didn’t seem to care was so significant that healthcare workers started sharing pictures on Instagram of themselves holding signs which read: “I stay here for you. You stay home for us.” As usual, many Malaysians were also quick to use the common refrain: Only in Malaysia! to refer to people who just didn’t want to follow instructions that could save their lives and that of other peoples.
Well, if the latest restrictions in the UK are anything to go by, the Brits (and those who live here) aren’t much better either. I mean, if even Piers Morgan thinks you should stay home then … #awkward
The Guardian today ran a response to someone who asked: “Is it okay to shout at strangers who aren’t social distancing?” Then there are the Italians too. And Canada. A clearly upset Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today, in a much more forceful tone than Boris or Muhyiddin, said:
Enough is enough. Go home, and stay home!Justin Trudeau
If that’s not firm enough for some people, I hope this guy (supposedly a mayor in Italy) convinces you: