Embracing the new normal post-Covid-19?

Makcik Kiah needs to know how and when she can start selling too, one says

pic by TMR FILE

MAKE no mistake, the government has made the right call by imposing the Movement Control Order (MCO) since last month, and the current decline in active cases for the pandemic we are witnessing so far is a testament to the success of the restriction.

“There is no room for complacency,” Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob stressed in his press briefing yesterday. “Malaysia should take (its) cue from other countries when it comes to easing the lockdown, to avoid the widespread infection of the virus again.”

It is a fair assessment, considering the second wave of infection cases in Hokkaido, Japan, and Singapore. German Chancellor Angela Markel also warned of a possible second wave cases, if the lockdown is eased too abruptly. Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham had suggested a “soft landing” before the MCO is lifted in the country.

On the other hand, Malaysians cooped up for more than a month are looking for a sign of returning to normalcy. The International Trade and Industry Ministry has eased restrictions on some sectors to resume some of the economic activities.

For daily wage earners, such as construction workers, the resumption of works would mean that they will finally be able to put food on the table. Unfortunately, there are also cases of workers who have been retrenched with immediate effect during the MCO, as the nation grapples with the looming economic catastrophe.

The number seems to increase, especially relating to small and medium enterprises. For the ones who still have jobs, they are anticipating a pay cut or being forced to take unpaid leave.

Business owners are cutting their losses in any way they can, but as one puts it: Those who are able to help also need all the help right now.

In general, Malaysians are receptive of orders and restrictions imposed, especially when it is for greater good, as seen in our compliance with the MCO.

What Malaysians need to know is the guideline in embracing the new normal, especially in the economic sector.

There should be a time frame for other non-essential sectors to prepare if and when the government decides to lift the MCO.

Restaurant owners, for example, are wondering how they will operate in the world post-Covid-19. They need to know to what extent will self-distancing affect their operations and ultimately, their businesses.

After a month, small business owners begin to lament the lack of directions and guidance over the operations of smaller businesses, or the non-essential sectors. Makcik Kiah needs to know how and when she can start selling too, one said.

“Mamak shops are profitable because we operate 24 hours. If there is a restriction on operating hours, we may have to look at Plan B, or just close it down for good,” a restaurateur said.

For the whole of the MCO period, he has turned his joints into a soup kitchen, meant to feed the needy. But just like any other business owners, he now fears the future.

It is unwise to lift the MCO too early as it may reverse all the good work the Health Ministry has done. At the same time, the government needs to prepare for a gradual ease of restrictions, economically and socially, for the people.

There should be a mitigation plan in facing global economic repercussions due to the pandemic. If need be, establishing a bipartisan economic committee should be on the cards as we seek to move forward and recover from Covid-19 as a nation.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.