The mutating rules of Covid-19 lockdown

The Covid-19 is mutating like crazy. Every day we are hearing of new variants – and with all those alphanumerics thrown in, it’s mind-boggling.

Amazingly, the same thing could be said about the people who are running the show in the country. You never know what they are going to say or do next, or if any statement would mutate into something else.

Take this latest brew-ha-ha (misspelling intended, it’s a really laughable affair involving breweries).

The guys from Amanah raised a ruckus about a brewery in Shah Alam that was open, and the government rushed to placate them by ordering it closed.

Never mind that hundreds of other factories – many of them hotbeds for Covid-19 – were allowed to operate, it was the Carlsberg one that had those guys in a tizzy.

And so it – and the Heineken brewery in Sungai Way – were closed.

Problem solved? Not really. Another set of zealots, drunk on the power that has now been bestowed upon them, are on the loose.

It’s not just the brewing of beers, even the sale of beers must be stopped, they decreed. As usual, that rule went lurching from one form to another.

First, the Brickfield police chief said they had raided a shop and closed it down because it only sold alcohol. It was actually the alcohol section of a supermarket, but housed in a different building.

His boss, the Inspector-General of Police, had no idea what the man was talking about.

Senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was just as befuddled. Along came deputy minister of domestic trade and consumer affairs Rosol Wahid. He declared that beer sales everywhere have to be stopped.

The reason? Beer is not essential.

I agree. But then, let’s look at this rationally. What exactly is essential? The colas, the carbonated soft drinks, even the isotonic drinks are all not essential.

Any of us can live without them for a couple of weeks. Hell, stopping their sales might even bring down diabetes and obesity in the country. But these things are still on sale and the factories are running.

How about all those sugar-filled buns? Sweets and candies? And even condoms. All these are on sale at any of the now 8-to-8 shops that were open 24 hours before the pandemic.

Then, surprise, surprise! The rule mutated again. This time, it was declared that there was a bar on shops selling only alcohol, but sundry shops and supermarkets that sold alcohol, besides the other usual necessities, could carry on as usual.

Sober heads had prevailed at last.

The problem here is not just about what’s right or wrong. It goes deeper, these tough times are bringing out the extremism, prejudice and even stupidity that has been bottled inside some people.

It’s the kind of stuff that really makes you want to thump some tables and point some fingers, or some slam front doors shut.

Take the police chief who issued a warning to restaurant workers not to eat at the tables at their own eatery. Did he know how things operate?

He justified it by saying that the workers would have eaten elsewhere if customers were there. He believes they used to eat somewhere else when shops were open as usual.

I have news for the police chief. Those tables are exactly where those poor guys have been eating all the time. They eat there when the customers have left, or when there are few customers around.

They do not have a special place to eat. Well, most of them, anyway. There may be some high-end restaurants that have pantries for their workers, but it certainly is not the norm.

Walk into any mamak shop, Chinese restaurant or a Malay nasi padang shop and you will find that the workers – and even the owners – will be eating at the same tables that the customers use.

Talking of nasi padang, eating in an open field is also deemed to be wrong now.

Pray tell, where would those poor delivery boys (and girls) on bikes stop to eat? They cannot eat in restaurants, they cannot eat outside the eateries where they collect food for others, and they cannot eat at the homes where they deliver the food to.

But they have to eat.

The only options left to them are public areas where few people gather, like gazebos in padangs. And cops are issuing them summonses for doing that? This is really hard to stomach. These policemen need to have a heart.

Meanwhile, roadside shops are still operating and I have come across at least two Facebook postings showing rows and rows of canopies serving as roadside shops and people flocking there.

Even the senior minister stopped for his nasi bungkus at one such stall.

Are they essential? No. They may even be bad in terms of Covid-19 infections.

But are they needed? Yes, because the people have to make a living, even in all this madness.

Come to think of it, you know what is really not essential at this moment?

Those 30-something deputy ministers who have little or nothing to do. Oh, and you can throw in a few of the ministers, too.