Poor communication leads to SOP confusion, frustrations

Obvious contradictions between SOPs implemented in Selangor and KL, conflicting messages conveyed by different ministries

by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

INADEQUATE communication between different government branches has left businesses and individuals in the dark on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the third Movement Control Order (MCO 3.0), which started on May 6 for six districts in Selangor and May 7 for Kuala Lumpur (KL) and several parts of Johor, Perak and Terengganu.

For example, at the start of MCO 3.0, the public was told to get police approval for any inter-district or interstate travel for work or emergency matters. However, on Sunday, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) said police approval is not needed, but an approval letter from MITI is a must with either a letter from their employer or their staff tag.

“Inter-district/state travel for work purposes does not require a letter from the police.

“A letter from MITI and an employers’ letter or workers pass (two items) are sufficient. The MITI letter does not need to have the police approval stamp,” MITI said in a statement over the weekend.

There were more conflicting statements on Saturday after the Hotspots Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) list was released.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar on the same day said places under the HIDE list were not confirmed Covid-19 clusters, hence did not need to close except when directed by the authorities. However, news reports quoted Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as saying that premises listed under the HIDE system would be ordered to be closed for three days effective immediately.

A child seen playing at the KLCC playground. Azalina says stopping people from engaging in low-risk activities which are good for their physical and mental health seems counterproductive

Centre for Market Education CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said there are obvious contradictions between the SOPs implemented in Selangor and KL, with delays in SOP communications and conflicting messages conveyed by different ministries.

“Yes, the SOPs are confusing and inconsistent, but they were so even before MCO 3.0. For example, face masks were compulsory in parks, but obviously you cannot use them in restaurants.

“I think the basic problem here is that the government knows that they cannot afford serious lockdowns since the rakyat will suffer too much. But at the same time, they want to please voters with Ramadhan festivities.

“So, what to do then? At this point, the government is doing something just for the sake of doing something,” Ferlito told The Malaysian Reserve.

Additionally, he said defending the current MCO 3.0 as part of a “targeted approach” also demonstrates a poor understanding of what targeted approach means.

Ferlito added that a targeted approach should not simply be based on geographical considerations, but first and foremost, on the identification of risk groups.

“It has been said that 0.2% of the MySejahtera locations are responsible for 90% of the infections, so why don’t we think of a clear strategy from there?

“The strategy needs to be changed at the root,” he said, adding that while consistency and clarity on SOPs would be appreciated, they are nothing when compared to the need for a totally new strategy.

Ferlito stressed that the government should understand that hasty and questionable MCOs are not the answer in handling the virus, as could be seen under MCO 2.0.

He said new and sudden restrictions, together with improper communication, are undermining business mood and expectations.

“We should know much more than what we did in March 2020 (when the first MCO was implemented). We must use the knowledge we have been gathering since back then, not just ignore and prolong everyone’s agony. Hospital and intensive care units are reaching breaking points.

“We are no longer at the beginning of the pandemic and we now have a greater understanding of the virus’ dynamics.”

The confusion over the current MCO 3.0 has left many people unhappy and angry, with netizens and several lawmakers questioning the government on the vagueness of SOPs, Ferlito stressed.

On Twitter, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said people have had enough with ministers and their deputies announcing contradicting SOPs each time MCO is implemented.

“It is MCO 3.0 already. The Perikatan Nasional Cabinet should be a pro in SOPs by now, but they have only become a pro in confusing the police and making people angry,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said the government has announced three series of MCOs, but to this day there is no change to the way the government acts against Covid-19.

“For example, today alone, there are 10 new workplace clusters. What will be the government’s action plan to ensure workplace clusters no longer grow day by day?

“To date, there are no latest workplace SOPs. The government cannot expect employers to just direct employees to work from home. There is a need for an official directive from the government,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Commenting on the issue of MCO 3.0 outdoor exercise ban, Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said stopping people from engaging in low-risk activities which are good for their physical and mental health seems counterproductive.

“And if people who are fully vaccinated cannot have some semblance of normalcy, the rest will not be incentivised to be vaccinated. Contradictions abound,” she said on Twitter.

Last Friday, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican proposed “more reasonable approaches” to the National Security Council (NSC) for sports and recreational activities during MCO 3.0.

He noted in a statement that his ministry had received many reactions regarding the SOPs imposed on the sports sector.

“The Youth and Sports Ministry has always been committed and consistent in bringing the perspective that sports are not only about activities as it also involves a wider ecosystem,” he said in a statement last Friday.

Later the same day, the ministry announced that contactless sports and recreational activities in open spaces such as jogging, cycling and exercising with a social distance of at least 1.5m are allowed effective Saturday.

Other loosening of restrictions in the sports and recreation sector will be fine-tuned in the NSC’s next Technical Meeting, the ministry said on Twitter.

Reezal Merican urged sports enthusiasts to continue with their health activities safely throughout MCO 3.0.

“We have not won the battle against Covid-19. Hence, all parties must play their roles effectively to ensure this MCO can really achieve its objectives.”