MCO 2.0 has shuttered two-thirds of small businesses in Malaysia, and that’s just tip of iceberg, retail group warns

MRCA said the current uncertainty as a result of the MCO will lead to more business closures and loss of employment. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
MRCA said the current uncertainty as a result of the MCO will lead to more business closures and loss of employment. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 ― Close to a third of small retail businesses have “collapsed” in the three weeks since the government enforced a second round of the movement control order (MCO) with more likely to fold if curbs are prolonged, the Malaysian Retail Chain Association said.

“The MCO extension is expected to depress the overall outlook for the retail industry which has been struggling since MCO 1.0 was implemented,” its president Shirley Tay told Malay Mail, referring to the first lockdown that lasted nearly a quarter of last year.

“The current uncertainty as a result of the MCO will unfortunately lead to more business closures and loss of employment,” she added.

“While we do not have any hard statistics, it is estimated that more than 50-70 per cent of small businesses have collapsed throughout this MCO period.”

Over 30 industry representatives had voiced their opposition to the MCO extension on Tuesday in a rare show of unity that underpins dipping confidence in the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis within the business community.

Some of the most influential economic sectors have rallied behind a drive dubbed “Industries Unite” to condemn the partial lockdown extension, calling the move a death knell for more businesses and warned of soaring unemployment.

MRCA was among the 37 signatories of the statement that called for an urgent medium-term plan to stem the pandemic and keep the nearly decimated economy running.

Businesses have suggested targeted restrictions only for high-risk areas and stricter enforcement, citing the continued surge in daily Covid-19 cases as proof that blanket curbs are ineffective.

“Any decision on business operation hours and inter-district travel should ideally be based on assessment of sound facts and figures in relation to the risk of infectivity in any specific location and/or the nature of the business,” Tay said.

“If the risk outweighs the benefits in high-risk areas, it may be justified to restrict the business hours and movement of people.”

Industries have joined public health and policy experts in calling for mass testing and more resources invested in contact tracing as daily cases continue to soar above 3,000.

They said the government had squandered the chance to preempt the third wave by refusing to test asymptomatic cases and blamed the runaway number of infections on lax enforcement and inconsistent policies.

“It is equally important that the government adopts aggressive contact-tracing and isolation measures within a fixed time frame for that specific location,” Tay said.

“Although there will be a temporary business or travel disruption within such an area, such a move will ensure that all positive Covid-19 cases can be identified in the most efficient and effective manner,” she added.

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