It has been a week since the government imposed movement control order (MCO) 2.0 and no improvement has been in the daily new infection numbers. Many are concerned either the MCO 2.0 will be fully effective in curbing the pandemic as the current MCO 2.0 SOPs are not the same as during the MCO first imposed last year, March.
Putrajaya allows five essential economic sectors to fully operate this time. This is to prevent a full-fledged impact the lockdown will have on the country’s economy. Indeed, the first MCO last year was a painful experience for us, especially SMEs and micro-businesses.
As per yesterday, criticism arose over a leaked letter revealed the government will launch a full-scale lockdown by Feb 4 if Covid-19 daily cases keep rising. The leaked letter contained details of a summary of Eurocham Malaysia chief executive Sven Schneider’s meeting with the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) which mentioned that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has made a clear stand on the matter of a complete shutdown of the economy.
The Eurocham Malaysia, however, has denied and explained that there was no mention at the meeting about an immediate lockdown to be imposed after the current movement control order ends.
It is said that with 99 Covid-19 clusters related to the manufacturing sector out the 300 present in the whole country, the MoH believes that the manufacturing sector is the main source of infections
The letter outlined some preliminary suggestions for stricter standard operating procedures (SOPs). These include creating quarantine spaces in worker dormitories, halving the number of workers in transport vehicles, and taking full responsibility for workers’ activities, even if their housing is outsourced.
MITI spokesman commented that it “will share details in due time” if there are any updates to Covid-19 SOPs.
Are we ready for another total lockdown?
None of us wants to repeat of the total lockdown first put in place on March 18 last year, but with daily Covid-19 cases consistently in the 3,000-4,000 plus range, we may not have a choice. However, experts believe a complete economic shutdown which was implemented in the last year should be undertaken again only as a last resort in the event the pandemic gets out of control.
According to an article written by New Straits Times, Putra Business School Associate Professor Dr Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff said such a move should be a “last resort” after other avenues had been exhausted.
“This is due to the negative implication if a strict MCO is imposed. There is no guarantee that many businesses would be able to sustain or maintain their workers even if the MCO is implemented for two weeks as it can be extended in the event the situation does not get better.”
He said if the government wanted to enforce a lockdown, it should be announced in advance, at least two weeks before.
Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School economic analyst Associate Professor Aimi Zulhazmi Abdul Rashid also concluded that the losses that the country may incur, if a full lockdown is implemented, may be equivalent to the loss (suffered) during MCO 1.0 (last year), where the impact was greatly felt in the second quarter, making Malaysia the worst performing economy in Southeast Asia.
“A total lockdown will further suppress the economic recovery, with more people to be impacted, businesses will be closed, small- and medium-scale enterprises will be at a loss and unemployment figures will skyrocket.”
“The government may have to prepare more fiscal stimulus to save the people and businesses to help them survive these tough times,” he said.