Bracing for the economic fallout from Klang Valley’s EMCO — Lim Kian Chung

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JULY 2 — The government has just announced that most parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur will be under enhanced movement control order (EMCO) between July 3 and July 16.

Social media is buzzing with criticism of the EMCO with several quarters blaming the “half-hearted” enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the high rate in Covid-19 cases, especially with certain sectors like manufacturing still allowed to operate.

Such arguments are simplistic and the data does not entirely support this. First of all, it is untrue that the manufacturing sector is a main contributor to the caseloads. Data from the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) shows that from the 507 coronavirus clusters detected in the country between June 1 and June 23, only 195 were linked to the manufacturing sector.

The manufacturing sector contributed only 9.3 per cent, or 12,872 cases from the total 138,649 detected by the Health Ministry during the same period.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had said that about 80 per cent of the infections are sporadic. In other words the source of the infections cannot be determined.

People shop for fresh produce at the Jalan Othman Wet Market, Petaling Jaya ahead of the enhanced movement control order on July 2, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
People shop for fresh produce at the Jalan Othman Wet Market, Petaling Jaya ahead of the enhanced movement control order on July 2, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

The EMCO announced in the Klang Valley is meant to address these sporadic infections which make up the bulk of the cases, not the workplace clusters, which had seen a dip in their contributions to the national caseload since MCO 3.0 was enforced.

Regardless, the EMCO in the Klang Valley is set to worsen the economic impact of the people living there. As it is, the media has reported a rising number of suicides over the past year, presumably driven by despair over Covid-19. There was also a campaign for those in dire need of basic necessities to fly a white flag outside their homes, so that others could reach out to them.

One just wonders how much more dire the situation will be now that EMCO is enforced in the heart of the country’s economic activity. How many more white flags do we want to see fluttering from the homes of the despaired? How do we explain this to the nasi campur seller whose shop serves assembly line workers who have been told to stop coming to work? How would the lorry driver who transports flour and rice earn a living if the demand for such items diminishes owing to some of his clients having to cease operations under a new SOP? What about those in the downstream business activities?

Sunway University economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng was quoted as saying recently that “too much damage” has been inflicted on the economy, including companies folding, following the repeated movement control order (MCO).

Besides, even if this EMCO can bring down infection numbers, there’s no assurance they will stay that way once the restrictions are lifted. How long are we going to keep playing whack-the-mole?

What we need to focus on is to pick up the pace of the Covid-19 vaccination and expedite our herd immunity target. The government is now immunising close to 300,000 people a day and is expected to hit 400,000 in August. There is light at the end of a long dark tunnel as far as the National Immunisation Plan is concerned.

While vaccines are not the silver bullet to help us get through this, experience in countries which have immunised a large percentage of their populations like the United Kingdom, Israel and Bahrain show that it helps to bring back normalcy in ways that lockdowns are unable.

In the lives vs livelihoods tug-of-war, there’s no win-win solution. We are at war with an unseen enemy and in any wars, there’d be collateral damage. Our job is to contain the damage and ensure a swift victory.

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

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