KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — A survey run by the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) revealed that a large number of respondents believed that an extension of the current movement control order (MCO) is necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The survey, which ran across Bernama’s social media platforms for two days since April 7, revealed that majority of the respondents strongly agreed that the MCO should be extended beyond April 14.

At the time of writing, the poll run on Bernama’s Facebook page has garnered over 26,300 votes, with 86 per cent of respondents rooting for an extension.

On Bernama’s Twitter platform, 82 per cent of the 2,759 voters (at the time of writing) wanted the MCO to be extended, citing fears of a sharp spike in cases of Covid-19 across Malaysia otherwise.

The comments section of the poll on Facebook was flooded with over 500 comments from concerned citizens who echoed the same sentiments.

Facebook user Sandra Liam believed that the rise in the number of cases daily was reason enough to extend the MCO.

“The MCO should definitely be extended because of the continuing rise in cases. It is up to the government to decide, but the safety of lives should be made a priority. The people should also cooperate,” she wrote in Malay.

Parents also voiced concerns that sending children back to school in the coming week may put their lives at stake and spark new clusters of transmission across the country.

“Imagine this: one class in school has about 30 students. During the 30-minute recess some 600 students gather at the canteen. How will they be able to practice the one-metre social distancing?

“If one of them is Covid-19 positive, imagine the chaos it would cause and how difficult it would be to disinfect the entire school. In the end, they would all need to go on leave to prevent further infection,” wrote Kamariah Othman in Malay.

“Please proceed with the MCO. I do not have the confidence to go out or even send my kids to school,” wrote another user, Tina Ismail.

The comments revealed a heightened understanding among Malaysians about the necessity of social distancing in preventing the creation of new Covid-19 clusters as well as strong support for the Health Ministry’s efforts thus far.

However, users also cited concerns that the government’s efforts would be all for naught if the MCO was lifted next week, as the upcoming fasting month and festive season might see citizens ignoring the social distancing and the need to stay away from crowds.

“..Ramadan and Syawal are just around the corner. If we don’t impose restrictive measures, we will see a rise in newer and deadlier waves. Let us sacrifice this year’s Raya celebrations so that we would be able to enjoy the ones to come,” said Sufi Mohd.

Twitter user @edwardraj1996 believed that the MCO should be extended but asked that exemptions be made for certain businesses, including vehicle repair workshops and hardware stores.

“Allow businesses providing certain essential services to open – such as car and motorcycle workshops and hardware stores. I am still working during the MCO period and it has been difficult because my motorcycle needs repair and this leaves me without transportation. I am now forced to spend quite a bit on Grab,” he wrote.

Twitter user @tinie_liew from Sabah, meanwhile, was worried that the extension would affect her studies as she had difficulty participating in online classes due to the poor internet line in her village.

“I thought (the MCO) would only last 14 days so I went back to my hometown. I did not expect for it to be extended for a further 14 days.

“..please have sympathy for the students in the villages. We do not have stable internet access to participate in online classes. I beg (the government) to allow students to go back (to university) before extending the MCO.”

Some universities had initially instructed its students to return to their hometowns before the start of the MCO before advising against it several days later. However, a number of students had already returned to their hometown by the time the decision was reversed.

Facebook user Muhammad Hammouidi Morshidi also believed that the MCO should not be extended but a standard operating procedure (SOP) for social distancing should be introduced instead.

“We should continue to ban gatherings and limit the number of patrons in stores and restaurants. Red zone areas should also be put under Enhanced MCO,” he opined.

Abdul Shukor Abd Talib, meanwhile, said that an extension of the MCO would severely affect business and sources of income for many.

“Many would lose their jobs after the MCO is lifted. Companies cannot survive if employers themselves are not making money,” he reasoned.

Malaysia is currently in the second phase of the MCO, from April 1 to 14. The first phase ran from March 18 through 31.

The Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that the country might not be able to cope if an exponential spike in cases — such as a 2,500 jump — took place.

He said that the decision on a further extension of the MCO would be announced on April 10. — Bernama