Monday, February 22, 2021

No lockdown, business chamber clarifies after leaked letter

Eurocham calls for calm, saying there was no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4.

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The EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) has sought to calm fears within the business community that Putrajaya is considering a complete lockdown of industries if Covid-19 infections remained high in the coming days, following a letter leaked to the media on its meeting with officials from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti).

“Eurocham Malaysia wishes to clarify that while Miti underscored the heightened sense of urgency that currently prevails, given the rising number of cases, there was no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4, 2021, and therefore, we seek for people to remain focused on the bigger picture – in doing their part to ensure that another lockdown is avoided instead,” said a statement released by chambers today.

Several media outlets today reported the contents of a letter sent by Eurocham to its members, summarising a “very important and urgent” meeting between its CEO Sven Schneider and Miti secretary-general Lokman Hakim Ali.

In it, Eurocham warned that if the current infection rate does not come down, the government would immediately announce a “shutdown/strict lockdown” after Feb 4, when the movement control order expires.

“This is the current situation we are facing and Miti is appealing to all companies, foreign and local, to join the effort of reducing infections, breaking the chain, to keep the economy open for business,” the letter had said.

But in its latest statement, Eurocham said its meeting with Miti had been an “informal discussion”, adding that the letter was a “confidential internal circular”.

“In these trying times, we appreciate the strong working relationship with the Malaysian government, in particular, Miti, and in our earnest opinion they have been doing a commendable job in managing the pandemic since 2020,” said Eurocham chairman Oliver Roche.

Its CEO Schneider meanwhile praised the government for its efforts to fight the pandemic, adding that the business community must take collective responsibility to flatten the curve.

“Globally, this pandemic has caused panic and disruption to every aspect of life since 2020 and therefore we should focus on our capacity to contribute to ending the pandemic,” he added.

The recently announced MCO has allowed most businesses to continue operating, unlike the first nationwide lockdown in March last year, when businesses were forced to shut down with the exception of essential services.

This time, however, authorities have placed strict health SOPs on businesses.

The government has repeatedly indicated that it will not repeat the lockdowns of the past following the effect these had on people’s livelihoods, with thousands losing jobs and companies forced to cut salaries.

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