KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — The Selangor government should switch to using less damaging but more effective methods to curb Covid-19, by following Kuala Lumpur’s example of locking down affected buildings instead of continuing lockdowns for entire districts in Selangor, local Klang Valley businesses have said.
In a statement yesterday, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (KLSCCCI) made an urgent plea to the Selangor mentri besar to adopt alternative measures amid feedback from its members that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and closure.
KLSCCCI noted that micro enterprises, small and medium enterprises and gig workers are suffering after enduring over 17 months of various editions of the movement control order (MCO), and noted that its member Malaysia Retail Chain Association’s (MRCA) June survey showed that 97 per cent of retailers have 4.5 months of cash flow left and that by now they will only have about three months of cash flow to last.
KLSCCCI noted that foreign chambers of commerce representing countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Japan have also expressed their apprehensions and had warned about the possibilities of some multinational corporations leaving Malaysia.
“We are deeply concerned that if the state government continues with the extension of Phase 1 and EMCO lockdowns after July 16, the economic devastation will be even deeper, long lasting and more damaging as many businesses are unable to survive through a prolonged period of lockdown,” the KLSCCCI said in the statement.
Instead of continuing the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) that most parts of Selangor is under for the July 3 to July 16 period, KLSCCCI listed six “less damaging” approaches and measures that businesses can work together with the Selangor government to resuscitate the state’s economy.
KLSCCCI pointed out that Kuala Lumpur’s targeted EMCO approach of only locking down buildings affected by Covid-19 as an efficient way to manage infections and allowing businesses to resume quickly, comparing it to Selangor’s EMCO lockdowns on affected districts that ineffectually covered almost the entire state.
“We, therefore, appeal to YB mentri besar to immediately lift a district-wide lockdown and adopt a targeted approach of identifying and imposing EMCO on affected buildings instead,” the business chambers said.
While saying that mass testing is a necessary part of a successful strategy against Covid-19, the businesses said this would inevitably result in the detection of more Covid-19 cases as compared to states who do not do mass testing, further saying that Selangor cannot rely on the number of infections alone to implement strict containment measures.
“Kuala Lumpur’s targeted approach of locking down buildings proved to be far more effective and less disruptive to businesses. This is indeed a win-win approach,” it said.
KLSCCCI also urged the Selangor mentri besar to immediately lift the lockdowns on entire districts in Selangor to help businesses from sinking deeper into financial difficulties after enduring losses for the past 17 months.
“Longer lockdowns will further minimise the chances of businesses’ survival,” it said.
In justifying the lifting of the current district-wide EMCO lockdowns, KLSCCCI pointed out that the manufacturing sector and retail sector (including malls and standalone shops) respectively contributed only 9.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent of Covid-19 cases in May 2021, as compared to Health Ministry data showing 69 per cent of cases are sporadic and from within the community.
KLSCCCI said the low levels of infections among the manufacturing and retail sectors was due to their strict adherence to standard operating procedures, saying: “Hence, it is an unfair approach of implementing lockdown across-the-board as the sledgehammer approach of a district-wide lockdown penalises sectors that have diligently implemented and adhered to the SOP.”
Selangor should also do away with the “fallacy” of categorising economic activities as either “essential” and “non-essential”, arguing instead that all economic activities are actually essential as they are interrelated and integrated through supply chains.
“The fact that a business is producing products and services to meet demands testify that the product and/or service is essential. Hence, all economic activities are deemed essential and should be allowed to operate, provided that they strictly comply with the SOPs, social distancing, wearing of masks and temperature testing,” it said.
Instead of the current approach of putting out a “positive list” or listing the type of businesses that can operate, KLSCCCI suggested that Selangor instead adopt a “negative list” to list down activities that cannot comply with the SOPs of physical distancing, masks-wearing and temperature screening.
“We propose to adopt a negative list to smoothen and ease the time of approval process. The positive list is proved to be an ineffective approach as it is impossible to have a comprehensive list of all activities,” it said.
Saying that the Covid-19 virus is already endemic in Malaysia as 69 per cent of cases are spreading within the community, KLSCCCI said there is a need to rethink the virus containment strategy and re-strategise to manage the pandemic from an endemic perspective.
It also noted that it is harder to test, control and break the chain of infections as most infected persons are asymptomatic, also noting that a person who has tested negative for Covid-19 could become positive the very next day.
Ultimately, KLSCCCI said speeding up mass Covid-19 vaccination to achieve herd immunity is the solution, urging Selangor to immediately mobilise all public and private resources to accelerate vaccinations in the state and to demand vaccines from the federal government.
“With 18 million doses of vaccines are due to be delivered in July, we urge Selangor Government to firmly demand a fair share of the vaccines allocation that is proportionate to the state’s population,” it said, adding that this request is strongly justifiable as Selangor is the country’s economic and manufacturing powerhouse that contributed to 24.3 per cent or almost a quarter of Malaysia’s 2020 gross domestic product.
“It is imperative that the people of Selangor be vaccinated as soon as possible so that the state’s economic and business activities can resume to normalcy, minimising the disruptions on national GDP,” it said, adding that the full resumption of business activities can help to reduce the public’s financial pain and reduce unemployment.
KLSCCCI further asked for an urgent meeting with the Selangor mentri besar to further explain its proposed measures and approaches, saying: “We look forward to the earliest possible appointment.”
On July 10, retailers and shopping malls had also penned a joint open letter to urge the Selangor mentri besar to review and abandon the current district-wide or state-wide lockdown approach, and to instead adopt targeted lockdowns based on building by building just like in Kuala Lumpur.
That open letter was signed by the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, the Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), MRCA, Bumiputra Retailers Organisation (BRO), Malaysia Reit Managers Association (MRMA) and the Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions (Matfa).