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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said that the government’s decision to allow the manufacturing sector to operate during the movement control order (MCO) period would only serve to prolong it and not reduce the number of Covid-19 infections.
He was referring to a letter issued by the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) to its members that Putrajaya may announce a total economic shutdown after February 4 should the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise and that the main source of infections comes from the manufacturing sector.
“Firstly, if there is an admission by the government that the majority of Covid-19 spread is taking place in the foreign worker community and in worker dormitories, under what pretence does the government believe that the current MCO, which does not specifically close down those camps and sectors, will successfully reduce the spread of Covid-19 infections?
“Leaving highly contagious sectors open serves only to prolong the MCO period at the expense of millions of Malaysians who are doing their part to slow the spread,” he said in a statement.
The PKR president added that the high rate of spread among foreign workers due to their close proximity in their dormitories has been a known risk factor for months and that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has had ample time to mobilise resources and enforce stricter standard operating procedures (SOPs) but have not done so.
“We have seen countless reports about MCO violations taking place in dormitories. Why are companies allowed to remain in violation of MCO SOPs without penalty?
“Unlike Singapore, which moved to implement mass testing in its migrant workforce population, Malaysia continues to drag its feet on this fundamental and largely achievable step,” he said.
He added that the Eurocham letter included basic recommendations from Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) to the manufacturing sector which should have been made and implemented months ago.
“The Eurocham letter validates the feeling many Malaysians have expressed to me that the government’s Covid-19 response is perpetually months behind the curve based on the sum total of learning that has informed more capable responses in other countries,” he said.
He then blasted Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz for suggesting that the current MCO will not have a major impact on the economy because many sectors — including construction and manufacturing — remain open.
“If a full lockdown is anticipated on February 4, and the basis for imposing a full lockdown is already known as of at least January 22, then the optimistic statements about the limited economic impact of the MCO are nothing more than lies and obfuscation,” he said.
Anwar then called on the government to dig deeper into its pockets and help corporations — indirectly helping to contain the pandemic — by increasing and implementing better wage subsidies, offering tax grants to corporations to upgrade their workers quarters and government sponsored mass testings.
“We have to recognise the fact that before the pandemic, corporations have consistently paid yearly taxes in excess of RM70 billion a year,” he said.
Yesterday, a letter detailing a summary of Eurocham Malaysia chief executive Sven Schneider’s meeting with Miti, started making its rounds on social media.
The letter indicated that Putrajaya is set to announce a total economic shutdown after February 4, should the number of Covid-19 cases in the nation continue to not show any improvement.
Later, the organisation said that a leaked internal memo was issued only for its members, after an informal discussion with the Miti last Friday and denied that Putrajaya is mulling a complete economic lockdown after February 4.