New Covid-19 survey results contain cheer for health authorities, gloom for businesses

One in five Malaysians said they were not prepared to patronise a restaurant this year. — Picture by Farhan Najib
One in five Malaysians said they were not prepared to patronise a restaurant this year. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Malaysian respondents in a recent survey said they were still coming to grips with Covid-19 when those in neighbouring countries were already settled to life alongside the pandemic.

In the findings of the survey that polling firm Ipsos released today, respondents were placed in one of six stages that ranged from apathy towards Covid-19 to belief that the worst of the pandemic was over.

Malaysian respondents were in stage four — daily adjustment — while those from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines were in stage five or fully adapted.

Respondents in China were in stage six, seeing the pandemic as fully contained.

Malaysia officially entered the “recovery” phase today, with the government eager for most business activities to return to some form of normalcy despite maintaining restrictions such as capacity limits.

But Malaysian respondents in the survey were less keen.

Notably, more than one in five respondents said they were not prepared to patronise a restaurant this year, while nearly two in five said they would only consider doing so after August.

Malaysian respondents also expressed great apprehension about using public transport, with almost one in two saying they would not do so in 2020. One quarter said they would while the rest were prepared to resume in August.

Respondents also expressed great apprehension about using public transport. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Respondents also expressed great apprehension about using public transport. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Worryingly for the domestic tourism sector, 55 per cent of the respondents said they would not travel within the country for the remainder of this year.

Most Malaysians appear to have heeded authorities’ warning against mass gatherings, with 56 per cent saying they would shun religious and cultural events across 2020. Just 15 per cent said they would join these.

While travel abroad is still not permitted, more than four in five respondents of the survey already said they would not do so this year.

The findings of the survey will be good news for health authorities still concerned about the lingering risk of a possible exponential rise in Covid-19 cases. While new infections have flattened in recent times, there were still 1,224 active cases as of yesterday.

Conversely, the results will also be of grave concern for businesses starved of revenue across the movement control order and the government that was trying to limit structural damage to the local economy.

Bank Negara Malaysia previously predicted a 2 per cent contraction of the economy this year but the projection was based on just four weeks of the MCO. 

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also said joblessness was set to reach 5.5 per cent in May or around 860,000 unemployed Malaysians, but other estimates such as those from recruitment firm JobStreet see the number reaching two million in 2020.

Ipsos surveyed 3,000 adult respondents from May 22 to 26 for the study.

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