In Kota Kinabalu, businesses say another MCO-style lockdown would end them

Commercial buildings stand in the central business district of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Commercial buildings stand in the central business district of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU, Oct 1 — As rumours of another lockdown in the state capital persisted, small-medium enterprise owners have begun expressing concerns over the catastrophic consequences if this were to occur.

Still reeling from the effects of the unprecedented movement control order (MCO) enforced in March, residents were still debating over whether such a move was needed to contain Covid-19 in the city.

Tan Lee Kah, a 62-year-old who operates a sundry shop in Gaya Street, said he might have to permanently close the family business he inherited from his father some four decades ago.

“We have been just surviving. I’ve had to ask my staff to go on leave since April and we operate on a skeletal staff now. There are very few tourists so at least half my business is gone,” he said.

Tan said that he will consider shuttering if another MCO was enforced in the city.

Yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin disclosed that authorities were considering such a lockdown for Kota Kinabalu.

Another trader, Tony Umbul, said his souvenir business was unlikely to be able to survive another MCO.

“If there is another lockdown, the government must step in and assist us. We don’t make much from this trade,” he added.

Former state health and public wellbeing minister Datuk Frankie Poon concurred that small businesses would not have the resources to withstand another MCO.

He noted that in the current recovery phase of the MCO, most businesses were at least permitted to resume operations.

However, four districts in the state have already been placed under a targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO).

“[We] can’t afford another MCO,” he said.

In Penampang, coffee shop operators and hawkers were also bracing to see the trade they have managed to rebuild over the last months evaporate.

Ting Yi Ping, who runs a store selling roasted meats and cooked items in a shoplot near here, said customers were only now starting to regain confidence with eating out again.

However, she said this quickly evaporated once it became clear that a new wave of infections was sweeping Sabah.

“It was good again for a while but I think it’s gone quiet the last few days. The rumours of another lockdown is scaring people,” she said.

Four districts in Sabah are under a targeted movement control order (TEMCO). The districts are in Sabah’s east coast of Lahad Datu, Kunak, Tawau and Semporna.

After Bung’s revelation yesterday, the National Security Council was forced to come and deny that all of Sabah would be placed under a TEMCO from tomorrow.

As of yesterday, Kota Kinabalu has 19 active cases, while Semporna has 362 cases. Tawau has 342 cases, Lahad Datu has 92 cases and Kunak has 53.

Interborder control will be implemented in Sabah from midnight tonight.

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