MCO extension depends on public’s cooperation

The order can stretch out if necessary, unless the public steps up compliance to government guidelines, says defence minister

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE government will begin imposing tougher measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus over the next two weeks, which will determine whether the Movement Control Order (MCO) will be further extended beyond April 14.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the order could stretch out if necessary, unless the public stepped up compliance to government guidelines. He said 742 individuals were arrested on Monday for opposing restrictions aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19.

This was in addition to over 2,000 people who have been arrested since the movement curbs were imposed on March 18. One hundred and sixty-five have since been charged in court, while six have been sentenced to a fine or imprisonment of at least one month.

“Many have asked if there will be a third and fourth extensions to the MCO — whether we will be able to celebrate Ramadhan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri? I know many would like to return to normalcy.

“However, what will ensure there will be no further extension is you. If the public continues to obey orders, we should not be worried of an extension,” Ismail Sabri told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

Malaysia is currently worst-hit in South-East Asia with 2,766 infections and 43 deaths. The country is preparing for a surge in cases this month with 16,500 tests expected to be carried out daily in April.

Malaysians have been put under partial lockdown for two weeks, with people forbidden from leaving their homes except to buy food or medicine. Most shops and businesses had been forced to close except for operations listed as essential services.

Under phase two of the MCO, operating hours for public transport, restaurants, hypermarkets, petrol stations and food delivery services will be reduced. To limit the crowd at wet markets, Ismail Sabri said the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority will set up marketplaces at 77 locations nationwide.

Disinfection efforts will continue to take place in critical areas. A total of 47 areas have been sprayed with disinfectant so far, including in 23 red zones, Ismail Sabri said.

The government has also imposed a blanket directive to quarantine all travellers arriving from abroad — whether via chartered or commercial flights — at designated facilities for 14 days, effective April 3. This comes after global Covid-19 cases top 787,000 and deaths at over 37,000 worldwide.

The US currently has the most confirmed cases globally at over 160,700. More than 3,000 people have died in the country — nearly half in New York state.

Ismail Sabri had also announced a six-month rental waiver for stallholders at major highways including PLUS, Maju Expressway and Shah Alam Expressway as businesses had been affected by the movement curb. The government last week rolled out a RM250 billion stimulus package to cushion the blow from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus package involves RM128 billion for households, RM100 billion to support businesses including small and medium enterprises, and RM2 billion to strengthen the economy — in addition to the RM20 billion previously announced.