PUTRAJAYA, April 28 ― The Ministry of Health has prepared Covid-19 mitigation guidelines for all economic sectors seeking to reopen once the movement control order (MCO) is relaxed, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.
“We have the SOPs for all services now,” he told the ministry’s daily press briefing on the outbreak situation here.
“In terms of all economic sectors we already have the SOPs in place. So the only thing is that we are opening in phases.”
Last week, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said the government will allow eight more sectors to reopen subject to stringent health regulations. The sectors include aerospace and certain types of construction.
Observers said how these sectors enforce social distancing and safe hygienic practices will provide the reference for how other industries once the MCO, now entering the fourth or “recovery” phase, is lifted.
At the moment, only large industries have been given the leeway to restart, as the government sought to jumpstart key sectors with extensive supply chains in an attempt to cushion some of the economic impact wrought by the pandemic.
But small and medium enterprises (SMEs) said they are the sector most severely hit, and have been piling the pressure on the government to allow more businesses to reopen.
Industry representatives have issued repeated warnings about potential mass layoffs and foreclosures should restrictions be extended, despite the Perikatan Nasional having announced a RM260 billion stimulus package with RM100 billion specifically for SMEs.
Earlier today, the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) suggested that the MCO’s impact could be far worse than the pandemic, as it urged the government to lift restrictions immediately.
Industries are likely to greet the announcement that a guideline for reopening is already in the works, following weeks of appeal for the government to outline a clear exit strategy.
SMEs accounted for a third of the GDP last year alone and are the largest sector in employment terms, payrolling nearly 70 per cent of the country’s 15 million workforce.
But Dr Noor Hisham suggested today that health authorities are likely looking at lifting restrictions for the services sector last, although he assured them it will eventually happen.
“We prioritise construction in terms of big industries first,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
“Then we will open up the services sector slowly but surely.”