KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — Malaysians reacted with frustration to the government’s announcement of a renewed lockdown to contain Covid-19 yesterday, which was delivered without any financial support or clarity over what rules will apply from tomorrow.
While most were resigned to the return of the movement control order (MCO) that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced, many noted the change in the tone of his delivery as well as the absence of assistance for those who could be left with no income for the duration of the lockdown.
Online, Malaysians pointed out that Muhyiddin eschewed the use of fictional characters such as Makcik Kiah, Pak Salleh, Kak Radziah and others that he previously peppered throughout his frequent special addresses last year.
More notably, however, they expressed concern over the lack of financial support to accompany what has been dubbed “MCO 2.0” even when consequences could be more severe now as Malaysians and businesses have exhausted their savings.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak encapsulated the sentiment when he “pleaded” on behalf of Malaysians for some form of support to tide them over the next two weeks of the MCO.
“If you want millions to sit quietly at home with no income, at least announce some assistance to lighten their burden,” the former PM said.
After the first MCO was announced last year, the Muhyiddin administration rolled out what was described as the “RM250 billion” Prihatin stimulus package that included a six-month moratorium on loan repayments, job retention and wage subsidy schemes, and direct assistance per household that could feasibly amount to RM7,864 given the right conditions.
While some aid could still be announced in coming days, PM Muhyiddin made no mention of any during his address yesterday.
Still more Malaysians vented their frustration at the government’s decision to again announce a new MCO without having already developed the accompanying standard operating procedures.
Rejecting attempts to portray the situation as “unprecedented”, Malaysians pointed out online that Covid-19 has been in Malaysia for over nine months and the country has also gone through various versions of the MCO since then.
Among others, lawyer Lim Wei Jiet questioned why it was not already automatic for the government to immediately release the SOPs that will be put in place after Muhyiddin’s special address.
“Why do you subject businesses & services to waiting, speculation & confusion?” he asked on Twitter.
“Are courts & legal services open? Nobody knows.”
While Muhyiddin announced yesterday that the MCO would be enforced from 12.01am tomorrow, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the detailed SOPs would only be announced at 5pm today.
Ismail said the Health Ministry, International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti), and Works Ministry will also make separate SOP announcements for sectors under their purview today.
Former international trade and industry deputy minister Ong Kian Ming said there was no reason why Miti must wait until a day after the announcement to release its guidelines on which businesses would be affected.
“Given that the PN government has had almost a year to refine the MCO, CMCO and RMCO SOPs, I don't understand why the SOPs will only be announced tomorrow, a day before the start of the MCO which will leave businesses & employees scrambling to make last minute adjustments,” he said.
Violations of the SOPS may result in individual compounds of RM1,000 per offence under Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
The renewed MCO will begin at 12.01am tomorrow in all Federal Territories, Penang, Johor, Melaka, Selangor and Sabah.
Pahang, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan will remain under the CMCO while Perlis and Sarawak will return to RMCO measures.
The economically-devastating MCO in March last year had managed to flatten the infection rate at the time but Covid-19 has since grown exponentially in Malaysia.
While it took from February to September last year for the country to accumulate its first 10,000 cases, Malaysia added as many cases in the last four days alone.
The disease has also become deadlier, killing an average of 100 people a month since October.