Covid-19 is just too costly

Although Malaysians in general are responsible, to risk more people from getting infected would be too costly


MALAYSIA could not afford another lockdown, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday. As it is, the Movement Control Order (MCO) has cost the country RM2.4 billion daily since March 18.

During the 47 days of MCO, Malaysia incurred RM63 billion in losses on paper alone, not including the figure from the country’s informal sector.

To avoid any further losses and declines, the government has allowed most economic sectors to reopen on May 4.

Still, news of our family, friends or acquaintances being retrenched or losing their jobs is no longer alien to us by now.

The economy is bad, and it is hard for companies and employers to sustain their businesses.

Those who still hold their jobs should count their blessings. Many who have been served with termination letters are still struggling to make ends meet.

Some have turned to all the menial jobs that are offered within the gig economy, while those with some capital are resorting to start home-based businesses to survive.

Take a walk through major shopping malls around Kuala Lumpur (KL), and one would perhaps get a rough picture on the current economic predicaments.

Save for eateries and lifestyle-based outlets, the number of shops that are shuttered is pretty astounding. Those who managed to survive might not have that many footfalls as they used to.

The situation is worse in Johor Baru. Photos of empty Johor Baru City Square show how the once popular mall is suffering due to the absence of Singaporean visitors.

Even Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad acknowledged that the drop in the state government’s revenue by 20% is partly due to the drop in Singaporean visitors as borders remain shut for both countries.

It was reported that almost 50% of self-employed Malaysians have lost their jobs due to the MCO, while 28% of employers had experienced more than 90% drop in their income.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia also revealed that in May, 5.3% or 826,100 individuals were already declared jobless.

The total economic loss brought by Covid-19, one would suspect, could be much, much higher, and if it goes unattended, the social implications could take years to repair.

These figures are definitely alarming. Yet, it is also rather impressive to see Malaysians embracing the new normal, the old way.

Amid the reopening of businesses and various economic sectors, there are also irresponsible quarters among us, who are selfish enough to flout the law while the country is struggling in the recovery mode.

A photo of a woman seemingly violating the home quarantine order made its rounds on social media recently, drawing ire among the public and heightened worry among healthcare workers.

If the picture of the woman under home quarantine eating out in public is not of concern, the photo of a wrist tag meant for those returning from overseas being dumped at the airport and was shared by PM’s Health Advisor Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, certainly says a lot!

Malaysians should take heed of what happened in Vietnam recently. After more than three months of successfully containing the infection, Vietnam recorded 12 new coronavirus cases — all imported!

In our eagerness to reclaim our normal lives, some of us seem to forget that all it takes is only one person to start a third wave of Covid-19 infection here.

Lest we forget, the biggest cluster in our country was caused by cases 131 and 136 involving Malaysians from Pahang and Negri Sembilan who attended the Sri Petaling tabligh gathering.

Our nation was forced to undergo lockdown to avoid widespread infections nationwide.

The government’s decision to reinstate quarantine centres for returnees should be lauded.

Although I believe Malaysians in general are sensible and responsible with their actions, to risk more people from getting infected would be too costly.

Not when we’ve worked so hard to recover from this unprecedented pandemic, with no clear signs on how we are going to move ahead beyond it, that is…

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