By Farhan Kamarulzaman
Following Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent announcement regarding the reintroduction of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in several states to curb the spread of Covid-19, it is clear that the government has no choice but to implement another round of MCO to resolve this alarming issue of Covid-19.
It could be the one and only thinkable option to facilitate our public health recovery mode since we are currently facing the peak of Covid-19 spread, adding to the woe of the country’s healthcare system which is at a breaking point.
Recently, the highest daily cases recorded could be seen as the leading cause that urges the government to place further restrictions on the nation regardless of the impact on business continuity and the financial concern of rakyat.
The health experts also raised concern and apprehension about the current status of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country through an open letter to the Prime Minister, highlighting that the Covid-19 infection in Malaysia has reached alarming levels and should be immediately addressed.
Plus, the current Covid-19 situation can also endanger the country if it is not adequately curbed and fully controlled by the government. This is why the government has decided to reintroduce the MCO to tackle the pandemic urgently.
Indeed, we have been warned of our incompetence in the battle against Covid-19 that later triggered the widespread Covid-19 until the nation smashed the record that reaches 3000 daily cases compared to before the first MCO that was only in three digits.
However, this may also be the essential sign for politicians to work together to flatten the Covid-19 curve and prioritise the country’s public health and economy instead of bringing up more political issues that can disrupt the nation’s goal to be immediately free from Covid-19.
The Sabah state election is sufficient enough to be the lesson learned by politicians. It was the primary factor that causes the people to bear the consequences now, namely the MCO 2.0 in this context that the rakyat has to face willingly.
Currently, some people would inevitably disagree with the government’s decision to reintroduce MCO, particularly among businesses, since its restriction could interrupt their business activities and increase their hardship to survive during the crisis.
Their relentless effort at business survival previously could also be a little pointless due to the restrictions that will soon kick in again and subsequently increase the potential of business closures or maybe a significant drop in revenue.
In this second round of MCO, businesses are also actively raising concern about their fate. Most of them are probably scared to death that they would not be able to survive this so-called MCO 2.0 because of the stricter standard operating procedures (SOPs) introduced by the government.
Previously, we continue to speak up that we could not afford to face another round of MCO, but this is unavoidable as it is the only alternative that could save the country from the uncontrolled spread of the virus, although the act would cause some businesses to suffer.
However, it is hoped that the government’s SOPs, mainly by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (MITI), would help a lot for business continuity during this MCO 2.0. The SOPs provided is seen to be better than the previous one as the government has indicated that industry players had been duly consulted.
The concern also emerges within the small hawkers, although the government has allowed them to operate for a limited time. This is because they still rely heavily on the foot crowds as this MCO 2.0 would encourage people to go out only to buy necessities, plus the rule of prohibiting people from dining in a restaurant.
During the previous Conditional MCO, the small hawkers raised concerns about their difficulties in operating businesses due to the CMCO restrictions. And with further restrictions during the MCO, the burden would gradually increase.
Thus, it should be a great responsibility of the government to reduce their burden during the crisis through practical strategies and financial assistance to facilitate their needs.
There is also something to recall during the first MCO costs the economy RM2.4 billion a day. Are we going to suffer the same exact fate as the preceding one?
Obviously not. The cost of this second round of MCO is likely to be lower than the first round as MITI has built supportive, detailed and specific SOPs for industry players to contribute continuously to the economy, such as manufacturing, construction, etc.
As during the first MCO, most economic activities were halted. Still, the SOPs for this round could probably provide the industry players with a sigh of relief as it will not leave the significant impact as previously. The new SOPs are to facilitate most industries’ daily operation and other business activities.
Furthermore, experts also encouraged the government to provide more fiscal support to contain the MCO 2.0 fallout as it could harm the economy.
The main essence of the SOPs for MCO 2.0, which is the prohibition of interstate travel and district travel, would be a perfect way to curb the Covid-19 spread as it is claimed to be one of the major causes of the spread.
Despite that, any improvements to the SOPs should be made accordingly to ensure that the rakyat is not burdened.
After all, the government should provide more support to the vulnerable during this MCO 2.0 and accelerate the Covid-19 vaccination, while the rakyat should strictly adhere to the SOPs given so that we can secure the win against the pandemic.
Farhan Kamarulzaman is a Research Assistant at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.