Experts: MCO needed to control pandemic, for economic recovery


THE enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in five states and three federal territories for 14 days beginning Jan 13 as announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had been the talk of the town even prior to the announcement.

Following the decision by the government, the public has raised their concerns on how the two-week MCO in Penang, Selangor, the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, Melaka, Johor and Sabah would affect those in business, especially small entrepreneurs.

Experts, however, believed the implementation which is aimed at flattening the Covid-19 curve, is crucial for the health and economy sectors.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Assoc Prof Dr Kulanthayan KC Mani said with the current healthcare system which is at breaking point to cope with a large number of patients, the MCO is undoubtedly needed.

“We all know that the MCO would affect the economic sector gravely, but health is more important and thus takes precedence. Once we are able to bring Covid-19 infections within our control and management, then the focus will be the economic sectors again.

“Nevertheless, it is vital to balance both the needs of health and economy. We need both to survive.

We hope the MCO period will not be long and this can only be achieved with strict discipline among the population to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs). This way, we can quickly flatten the curve and our economy can ease up soon,” he said to Bernama.

In the meantime, Dr Kulanthayan, who is also UPM Safe Kids Malaysia ED, highlighted that the government needs to help the B40 (bottom 40%) group, but not forget the M40 (middle 40%) group will also be badly impacted by the MCO.

“For instance, the government can provide aid in terms of rentals, wage subsidies and utility bills such as electricity and water bills, interest-free loans, tax reliefs and deferments of payments, he said.

Meanwhile, Prof Emeritus Dr Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said due to the MCO, the government must introduce drastic initiatives to assist small businesses and help people start businesses from home.

“At the same time, we expect that micro-businesses would be badly affected, too. Thus, these groups, affected households and micro-enterprises must be helped. This is the time for the government to create a budget to help affected households to start businesses from home.

“(The) government needs to help them not just in terms of (cash) handouts but assistance to make sure they can stay alive in business. This is where the government needs to put in extra

efforts,” said the economist. Dr Barjoyai also said with the emergency proclaimed by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, which will be enforced up to Aug 1, Malaysia’s economy is now dependent internally.

Therefore, he concluded there is an opportunity in developing the local market as he expected that there will be no new businesses initiated by foreigners in this country during the emergency period.

Last Friday, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Kelantan would also come under the MCO from Jan 16-26 due to the spike in Covid-19 cases in the state.