KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — As Malaysia struggles to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control, the government’s decision to implement a third movement control order — or more popularly known as MCO 3.0 — wasn’t entirely unexpected.
Albeit not as stringent as the first MCO in March last year, this third rendition comes into play as the country sees consecutive days of record-high daily Covid-19 cases as well as deaths.
Despite calls for a total lockdown, the government’s decision not to shut down the economy in favour of tighter standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as requiring more people to work from home, curbing unnecessary movement and shortening business hours, has been met with mixed reactions by Malaysians.
Malay Mail took to the streets to speak with members of the public to get their thoughts on MCO 3.0, and here’s what they had to say.
All down to Great Malaysian Public
For international school teacher, Saleha Khwaja, 34, she is neither relieved by nor upset with the government’s decision to not implement a full-scale lockdown.
“Either way, people and businesses are going to suffer. I think a full-scale lockdown is the best way, but daily wage earners, small businesses and working parents must be taken into serious consideration,” she said.
Saleha is also sceptical about the advice given by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, adding that she considers it sound but is unsure if it will be heeded by the public at large.
“Just because you give good advice does not mean people will follow it. If we want to flatten the curve, then proper SOPs must be strictly enforced alongside a more efficient vaccination programme,” she said.
This sentiment is shared by Shon Voon, 26, owner of an events and advertising company who said that the advice given by Dr Noor Hisham should be heeded, but in the end, the decision to follow it remains very much with the public, adding that a full lockdown would have been the best solution.
“As a business owner, I was really unhappy with the announcement. I would have much preferred a total lockdown to be initiated. This would have been a better solution to curb Covid-19, instead leaving things as they are.
“Stricter SOPs will not solve anything in the long run. As long as there is human interaction, the number of daily cases won’t go down.
Shon is now faced with a dilemma: Since businesses can remain open, he has to meet clients and people, putting his family at risk of infection.
“For me, if there is no lockdown, businesses still need to operate. Hence, I need to be out and about. This is very worrying because I might get infected and bring the virus home to my family.
“Having stricter SOPs and leaving the situation as it is forebodes a bigger negative impact on our businesses. Events and roadshows won’t be able to run for god knows how long and we are left guessing whether any clients would want work done at this critical period,” he said.
Ready for any eventuality
Food and beverage businessman Muhammad Shazwan Mohd Fadzilah, 32, is more vocal about his relief that a full-scale lockdown was not implemented like it was last year.
“However, based on my perspective, my company as an online business entity has actually worked more efficiently and creatively since MCO 1.0 because we were ‘coerced’ into making a living in such a difficult situation.
“And thankfully, we survived MCO 1.0 before, and if we were to go through it again, I think we are much more ready to face it,” he said.
Shazwan added that in the event the current MCO fails to lower the daily infection rate, his business is prepared to face a full-scale lockdown.
He also fully agreed with Dr Noor Hisham’s advice, adding that he has tried wearing two masks at the same time.
“I did feel safer, though at times it can be difficult to breathe through two masks. But I understand the need for double masking, as a form of extra protection,” Shazwan said.
Same story, different day
For MrSpeedy delivery rider Fazli Shahrizan, 27, he is slightly pessimistic about the idea of a full-scale lockdown, as to him it does not seem to matter either way.
“I cannot say I am relieved or upset, really, given the rising number of cases. Yet many people are still going out, and at this rate, there will be no end in sight for any MCO that is put in place.
“We might end up going back and forth, from MCO, to EMCO, to CMCO, then back to MCO. Are we expected to face this for the next 10 years or something?” he said.
Fazli also said, for him, double masking would be uncomfortable, given his daily work routine.
“As far as high-risk areas are concerned, why not just close those places? If they can close shopping malls after infections are discovered, I am sure no one will go there for their own safety.
“Even if a high-risk place is not closed off, it might discourage people from going there, out of fear or perhaps they may not even be bothered to set foot there. But I suppose if that is what Dr Noor Hisham advises, then the public would do well to listen closely,” he said.
On May 22, Putrajaya announced new and tighter restrictions on social movement and economic sectors in redoubled efforts to cut the spread of Covid-19.
Among the new SOPs are businesses only being allowed to operate for 12 hours a day, from 8am to 8pm, and 80 per cent of civil servants will be required to work from home in the new norm, while it will be 40 per cent for the private sector.
Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob explained that the government had not made the decision lightly as it had to weigh the health interests of Malaysians against that of their economic welfare as well.
“The government has long given its justifications for this where we try to balance the interest of health and the interest of the people to survive.
“As we all know, when MCO1.0 was done, the government lost RM2.4 billion a day and small traders who earn their wages day-to-day did not have any income whatsoever.
Ismail Sabri explained that a total lockdown this time around would not be prudent and was not the way forward to deal with the soaring infection rate that will have a crippling effect on the economy in the longer term.
He promised that when Covid-19 infections are manageable again, the government will scale back to the more relaxed conditional movement control order (CMCO) and recovery movement control order (RMCO).
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