Saturday, October 16, 2021

Return of MCO-style lockdown on the cards as daily cases set to spike

A stricter MCO could be imposed in Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Johor and Sabah, which have been reporting high daily infection rates.

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Authorities are seriously considering a lockdown reminiscent of the early phase of the movement control order (MCO), which could see a ban on social activities and non-essential travel in several states worst hit by Covid-19, including the Klang Valley, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

It is understood that a stricter MCO could be imposed in Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Johor and Sabah, states which have been reporting high daily infection rates.

It is not clear how long a new and stricter lockdown would last, but health experts consulted by Putrajaya are confident it will slash the current daily rate by 80%.

It is understood that top government officials have been briefed, “but there are several legal issues still outstanding”, a source said.

Further details are unclear, but the plan comes in the wake of a rising death toll as daily cases hover above an average of 2,000.

A source familiar with top-level discussions on battling the pandemic said if the MCO is reinstated, it would see a ban on interstate travel, as well as non-essential trips other than to get daily essentials.

“Reinstating the MCO could also mean a complete ban on all religious and social gatherings including prayer congregations, kenduris, sports events and annual festivals,” the source told MalaysiaNow.

Details have not been forthcoming on how the economic sector would be allowed to run under the new MCO either, but it is likely “the authorities would not want to see the collapse of businesses again”, the source added.

The MCO was first announced on March 18 last year, when the country was still recording two-digit numbers each day.

The lockdown ravaged most business sectors, forcing the government to release billions of ringgit in rescue packages to replace lost income.

The MCO was eased in June with several more relaxed variants where health SOPs were imposed. However, cases began to shoot up in September in the aftermath of the Sabah election, in what the health ministry said was the third wave of the pandemic.

A man reads the newspaper at his home, fenced in by barbed wire in the Selayang Baru area during the first movement control order period in April last year. Photo: AP

The trend is likely to continue in the coming days, with daily numbers breaking previous records, the source said.

“Worryingly, each day might see record daily numbers, which would make the current wave pale in comparison,” it said.

Last month the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research centre at the University of Washington, said there would be a continuous rise in Covid-19 cases in Malaysia until March, with daily infections to hit 5,000 by Feb 25.

On Dec 24, MalaysiaNow reported that officials were bracing for the worst, expecting hospital facilities to be stretched beyond their limit if preparations are not immediately made.

Despite the fears, Malaysians thronged beaches and other holiday destinations during the recent year-end break, with hotels reporting full occupancy, a far cry from the empty rooms throughout most of 2020.

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