Govt needs to rationally revise the definitions of essential services during MCO — SS Jothiratnam

APRIL 18 — Based on my observations, it is apparent that there is a need for a rational review of what ought to fall under the rubric of essential services.

To examine this logically, let me start by listing the three primary givens as I see them. These ought to inform any policy-making:

  1. It is crucial to facilitate social distancing, and to minimise contact with other people, as much as possible;
  2. A great many people are now compelled to work from home. For them to do their jobs optimally, conditions at home ought to be as conducive to working as possible.
  3. Essential service workers need to be able to rely on their own transportation.

These three factors have a number of concrete implications to exemptions from the MCO.

For obvious reasons, in order to reduce any individual’s contact with the public as far as possible, private means of transport are preferable to public ones. Furthermore, some essential service workers, including medical staff, may have to use their private vehicles more now than they did in the past.

From this, it follows that car and bike mechanics ought to be allowed to operate their businesses during certain hours, albeit that they be required to follow appropriate social distancing and sanitary guidelines.

Given that people are spending more time at home, home-appliances like air-conditioners, personal gym equipment, and so on will doubtless need service more frequently. Consequently, appliance-service personnel too ought to be exempt from the MCO.

Given that they will travel from one house to another, they must scrupulously follow strict sanitary and social-distancing guidelines. In addition, no more than 2 workers should be allowed to travel to work.

Similar arguments apply to washing machine service personnel. In the event of a breakdown, if repairs cannot be effected, people will have to start using public laundries, thus needlessly exposing themselves. This can be avoided by allowing repair-personnel to travel.

For obvious reasons, electricians, plumbers, and contractors also need to be exempted from the MCO restrictions. In the event of a plumbing or electrical emergency, their services really are critical.

Taking these points into consideration, and noting that Internet service personnel are very sensibly already exempt from the restrictions, I urge the Government of Malaysia to re-evaluate your guidelines, and to include the workers I have mentioned above in the exemptions schedule as well.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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