KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Starting today, almost all activities in the economic, social, religious and education sectors will resume fully in stages.
While business owners, workers and the general public have been looking forward to this day ever since the movement control order was enforced on March 18, the spectre of Covid-19 will still haunt Malaysians as the coronavirus has yet to be annihilated.
This is why it is absolutely crucial for all parties to remain vigilant and comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and advisories issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH) because keeping infections at bay is now in the hands of the public.
In a special televised live address on Sunday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the MCO has now entered the recovery phase as the Covid-19 outbreak was under control.
He said the conditional MCO, from May 4 to June 9, would be replaced by the recovery movement control order (RMCO) beginning today up to Aug 31.
Under RMCO, interstate travel is allowed, except to areas still under enhanced movement control order. Among businesses given the green light to resume operations are hair and beauty salons, morning markets, night markets, bazaars, food courts, food trucks and food stalls. Commercial activities that involve transactions and trading outside business premises will also be allowed.
Occupational health expert Dr Shawaludin Husin said while the reopening of many sectors badly hit by the MCO is vital for economic recovery, it, however, must be accompanied by clear SOPs to ensure the safety of consumers, workers and employers.
Full cooperation needed
“We have not attained full victory in terms of stopping the spread of Covid-19. This is why everyone should cooperate (and do their part to prevent getting infected) as none of us want to go back to the MCO or CMCO phase again,” he stressed.
The recovery phase is crucial as it would spur economic growth and reduce the unemployment rate, he said, adding that prolonged movement restrictions will cause more people to become jobless which, in turn, will lead to a rise in criminal activities and other social ills.
Among the SOPs that must be observed are social distancing, frequent washing of hands or using a sanitiser and wearing a mask. Dr Shawaludin also urged the public to follow the MOH’s advice to avoid the 3Cs and observe the 3Ws.
The 3Cs to avoid are crowded places, confined spaces and close conversations while the 3Ws refer to washing hands frequently, wearing a mask in public places and the warning by MOH to stay at home and only go out if it is necessary.
Dr Shawaludin also said that putting in place the necessary SOPs at their premises may mean that businesses have to forgo higher profits.
“Under the SOPs, they can only allow a certain number of customers into their premises at any one time. Of course, they would want (to serve more customers and) their finances to recover quickly but it’s important that they follow the SOPs.
“It’s also important for business owners to understand that they at least have the means to resume their operations, unlike others whose businesses were paralysed during the crisis,” he told Bernama.
Universiti Utara Malaysia School of Economics, Finance and Banking senior lecturer Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah, meanwhile, said the reopening of almost all sectors and sub-sectors will speed up the recovery of the nation’s economy and enhance the supply chain and productivity, as well as boost the confidence of manufacturers and traders.
The Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), unveiled by the prime minister last Friday, is another positive move that will, among others, support the growth of inventory such as raw materials, products still in the processing stage and finished goods.
“Inventory growth is greatly influenced by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so it is hoped that allowing almost all businesses to resume operations, together with the Penjana incentives, will drive investment and capital growth,” he said.
Muhammad Ridhuan said the reopening of various sectors and sub-sectors would also boost interactions among domestic industries which will help to kick-start economic recovery although full recovery will take time to materialise.
He said according to Okun’s Law (an empirically observed relationship between unemployment and losses in a country's production), an increase in GDP will help to reduce the unemployment rate. The loss of jobs is what most countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are fearing the most.
“It is hoped that in the short term, the fiscal stimulus packages introduced by the government will help to stimulate economic activities in the services, manufacturing, agricultural, mining and quarrying, and construction sectors,” he added. — Bernama