MCO extended to April 14, economic stimulus package to be announced on Friday

PM says the MCO will have to be extended beyond the current end-date of March 31 after the country’s death toll spiked to 17 in less than a week

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MALAYSIA has extended the Movement Control Order (MCO) by another two weeks to April 14 as part of continuing measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced in a televised address yesterday.

Muhyiddin said the movement curb will have to be extended beyond the current end-date of March 31 after the country’s death toll spiked to 17 in less than a week. Total number of infections hit 1,796 as of noon yesterday — the highest tally in South-East Asia.

“I know you feel burdened, but I don’t have a choice. I have to extend the MCO for your own safety,” Muhyiddin said. He hinted of a further extension to the deadline after telling Malaysians to be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a “reasonably” longer period of time.

The PM’s announcement confirmed speculation that the government would extend the national order further as the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia worsens. Under the MCO rules, only heads of families are allowed leave their homes to buy food or medicine. Most shops and businesses had been forced to close except operations listed as essential services.

While more Malaysians are complying with the stay at home decree, many have been caught for breaking rules.

“The authorities will take strict actions to ensure the MCO is complied with and that it achieves the desired outcome, which is to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. I would like to remind you that if this order is not obeyed, it will not have any positive effect and our actions will be in vain,” Muhyiddin said.

He advised all to remain calm and assured that the country’s food supply is sufficient. The police and army are already on alert in anticipation of a payday rush to withdraw cash in the next few days.

The MCO announcement a week ago had stoked fears of shortages as shoppers flocked to stores. Major retailers have since had to double down on efforts to replenish stocks on shelves and limit the sale of essential items.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd MD Datuk Ameer Ali Mydeen said his supermarkets have imposed some purchase limits on items such as milk powder, flour and sugar.

Muhyiddin said he will announce a more comprehensive economic stimulus package tomorrow, where he promised that “no one will be left behind”.

On Monday, Muhyiddin revealed four relief measures largely aimed at improving cashflow in low-income households. The measures included further withdrawals from the EPF pension scheme of up to RM500 per month over the next 12 months, in addition to the 4% reduced contribution that will take effect next month.

Muhyiddin called on religious departments and charity organisations to also play their part in helping the needy regardless of race and religion during the partial lockdown period.

“The difficulties they are facing are unprecedented and I believe all of you can do something meaningful to ease their burden.”

The PM commended the heroism of the country’s frontliners in the battle against the Covid-19. He said the Health Ministry has been instructed to give room for medical staff to rest in phases, and to mobilise its recent recruit of volunteer doctors and nurses.

“The same goes for our police and military personnel in the field. Take care of your health. We value your service to the country,” Muhyiddin said.