MCO in 6 Selangor areas amid calls for targeted approach

Aidilfitri prayers are allowed with conditions, except for areas under EMCO, while open houses are not allowed


SIX districts in Selangor will undergo the Movement Control Order (MCO) from tomorrow until May 17, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (picture) said.

The districts are Hulu Langat, Petaling, Gombak, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

The remaining three districts — Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor and Hulu Selangor — will remain under Conditional MCO.

As of noon yesterday, Selangor recorded the highest Covid-19 infections with 675 cases, out of 3,120 cases detected nationwide.

Ismail Sabri also said the Aidilfitri prayers are allowed with conditions, except for areas under the Enhanced MCO (EMCO).

Open houses during the festival are not allowed nationwide.

The announcement was made amid experts’ recommendation for a targeted approach to be utilised under a pandemic management system.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs CEO Tricia Yeoh said the previous MCOs were not consistently applied across the board, with frequent exceptions being made.

She added that announcements on standard operating procedures (SOPs) were also changed many times, resulting in confusion and uncertainties over what were the actual rules and regulations.

“I believe that an MCO at this stage will be devastating to the economy, as businesses will suffer primarily.

“What the government should do is implement a pandemic management system, so it can decide when to introduce stricter measures whenever the rate of transmission reaches a certain level, and then roll back those measures when the transmission rates fall back down,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Yeoh calls on the government to consider a Pandemic Severity Index as proposed by the US Centres for Disease Control, or a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the pandemic severity as previously proposed by Dr Khor Swee Kheng of the Malaysian Health Coalition.

She explained that a set of KPIs will be more holistic and more accurate to determine the pandemic severity and the government’s performance as the decisions are data-driven, independent and not arbitrary, instead of seemingly relying on a single KPI of daily new cases that is easily influenced, not holistic and inaccurate.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Saturday that the MCO will be reviewed, especially in states experiencing a spike in positive Covid-19 cases.

He said this is important to ensure that the SOPs and actions taken are effective in curbing the spread of the virus, which has seen a surge in Malaysia and other countries.

Muhyiddin had previously said the government would not implement a blanket MCO, but instead it will implement a more targeted Covid-19 containment strategy.

OCBC Bank (M) Bhd economist Wellian Wiranto cautioned that should MCO be implemented, it could spare the bulk of economic activities, like in January, when factories and shops could stay open even if social and religious activities were curtailed, adding that it would limit the economic damage.

“The impact will remain palpable, hurting the nascent recovery in business and consumer confidence into the second quarter.”

Commenting on Bank Negara Malaysia’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting tomorrow, he said while OCBC and the market do not expect the central bank to cut its Overnight Policy Rate on balance, there remains a small tail risk that it might just do so.

At the very least, it would start to flag some of the downside risks more vocally and signal that the central bank continues to have some space for further accommodative policy if needed.

Signs are rife that the country’s healthcare system is already stretched as new cases have creeped up to above 3,000 recently, although there is still some distance away from the record number of over 5,700 cases recorded in late January, said Wiranto.

“Hospitals in the populous Klang Valley area are experiencing a shortage of beds in intensive care, and the death rate is creeping up. Invasion of the more infectious virus variant from India has been reported, adding to the sense of unease on the ground,” he added.