KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — The government will not impose a strict lockdown akin to the movement control order (MCO) last year as this would devastate lower income groups, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.

The senior defence minister acknowledged views that the current iteration of the MCO was more relaxed than before, but said it was still causing significant damage to the economy.

He said this was especially so for wage earners who would not have any income if they were prevented from working.

“As some say, we don’t want the people to die because of Covid-19 but we also don’t want the people to die because they have nothing to eat,” Ismail said during a press conference after inspecting a roadblock operation in the city here.


The government imposed the current MCO on January 13 and later extended it to February 4.

Since then, however, Malaysia’s Covid-19 situation has continued deteriorating, resulting in three straight days with over 5,000 new cases or more than twice what was reported when the MCO was announced on January 11.

Ismail said it was important to balance the need to protect lives and to preserve the livelihoods of Malaysians.


He asserted that many small traders and food sellers have seen their incomes halved or worse in the MCO, and said this would evaporate completely if economic activities were restricted further.