On eve of economy reopening, Health D-G reminds public MCO not fully lifted yet

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the government’s move to allow most businesses to reopen tomorrow does not indicate the lifting of the movement control order. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the government’s move to allow most businesses to reopen tomorrow does not indicate the lifting of the movement control order. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The government’s move to allow most businesses to reopen tomorrow does not indicate the lifting of the movement control order (MCO), Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.

The conditional MCO (CMCO) is meant to ease Covid-19 restrictions, but with strict social distancing remain enforced, with non-compliant companies or members of the public still subject to punishment, he stressed amid public confusion over Putrajaya’s decision to restart the economy.

“The MCO is still in force,” he told the ministry’s daily Covid-19 press briefing this evening.

“We only relaxed some restrictions based on the conditions set by the World Health Organisation in order to lift the MCO... for example, our border security has been tightened, not loosened.”

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Friday announcement that the government will relax some restrictions under a CMCO have drawn mixed response, with critics raising concerns that the move could set off fresh infections.

Under the new rule, most non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen starting Monday but subject to stringent health standard operating procedures, including compulsory staff screening, limiting the number of customers, and ensuring they wear face masks.

The controversial decision comes as the Perikatan Nasional administration amid mounting concerns over the pandemic’s deep economic cost.

Muhyiddin said in a televised interview recently that the economy loses RM2.5 billion a day for every day the country is in partial lockdown.

The first three MCO phases lasted over a month, while the CMCO will end on May 12. There is speculation that the conditional relaxation may be prolonged beyond that.

Dr Noor Hisham said today there is concern among policymakers that an extension of the MCO would fuel public restlessness and reduce compliance.

But as the number of daily positive cases suggest the outbreak has stabilised, public health authorities saw it fit to lift some restrictions to allow the economy to jumpstart again.

Still, he said self-discipline will be crucial for the CMCO to succeed, citing the successes of countries like Sweden and South Korea in combating the novel coronavirus without imposing social distancing measures.

“Self-discipline will be key... we did not use the six criteria set by the WHO to lift the MCO, but instead based our conditional MCO on them,” he said.

“So if any companies or individuals are found to not comply with SOPs we will reimpose restrictions under MCO.”

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