Putrajaya in conundrum on total lockdown

Govt to decide today on full lockdown as new Covid-19 daily cases hit record high for 2 consecutive days


THE government is expected to decide today whether a full lockdown, sans economic activities, will be implemented amid rising Covid-19 cases and industries’ objections to the move.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz had stated earlier this week that a total lockdown may affect employment and that no other countries have implemented it during the pandemic.

The government has spent some RM340 billion worth of six stimulus packages to jump-start the economy when the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced in March 2020.

The meeting today, according to Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, aims to discuss and decide the possibility of stricter lockdowns, similar to MCO 1.0 that was deemed successful in curbing the virus.

Takiyuddin said the strict lockdown proposal will be tabled at the National Security Council (MKN) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“The proposal for stricter MCO will be discussed in a meeting comprising MKN, as well as the states’ chiefs. We need to look at the options we have, after we have had several types of MCOs like Conditional, Recovery or Enhanced MCO (since the outbreak),” he told reporters yesterday.

All eyes will be on the federal government’s decision for Selangor, which recorded more than 2,000 positive cases for two consecutive days. Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, reported more than 600 cases in the same period.

Malaysia detected 6,806 infections yesterday, with 2,277 cases in Selangor.

Last week during the Aidilfitri address, Muhyiddin warned that daily cases would pass the 10,000 mark this month if there is no intervention to curb the transmission.

Despite confirming his attendance for the scheduled meeting today, Selangor Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari said he was informed that the MKN meeting will be held without any representative of the state MBs or chief ministers.

Amirudin had said on Wednesday that the Selangor administration will accept the total lockdown decision, provided that the federal government provides financial relief to the people and industries in the state.

Selangor contributes over 20% of the total national GDP. The MB also asked for clearer SOPs, on top of the government’s exit strategy in managing Covid.

Selangor Malay Chamber of Commerce president Mohd Azli Md Yusof urged the federal government and Bank Negara Malaysia to consider a more transparent and targeted moratorium for small entrepreneurs in the state.

“MCO has caused great damage and implications to the entrepreneurs, especially SMEs (small and medium enterprises). The assistance can help them to sustain and survive,” Mohd Azli told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Meanwhile, SMEs Association Malaysia (Samenta) opposed the proposal to enforce another round of lockdown, as SMEs are already short of reserves and not yet fully recovered from the previous MCOs.

Samenta central chairman Datuk William Ng said a full lockdown is not the solution, but instead the speeding up of the vaccination rollout is the key to escape the Covid-19 crisis.

“A full lockdown, as proposed by some quarters, would render tens of thousands of our SMEs insolvent, which in turn would lead to another round of retrenchment.

“The damage to our economy would be irreversible, at a time when we are preparing for recovery as the national vaccination rollout continues,” he said in a statement yesterday. “The solution can only be in vaccination.”

The same sentiment was also expressed by other trade associations such as the Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia, American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Selangor decided to procure the state vaccine to be sold to the businesses in the state. As a start, 2.5 million doses will be brought in and some 3,500 businesses which employ over one million employees have already shown their interest.

However, associations for malls and retailers objected to Selangor’s paid vaccination programmes, stating that the move is contrary to the original commitment by the federal government that vaccines are supposed to be funded by and provided on a complimentary basis to both Malaysian citizens and non-citizens alike.

“The funds are from the taxpayers and spending for a just cause is acceptable. Having paid for the vaccines from the state coffers, it would appear there is a profit motive to further charge for the vaccination and especially what appears to be at an exorbitant level.”

The joint statement was signed by Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association and Bumiputra Retailers Organisation.


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