Monday, February 22, 2021

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The international trade and industry ministry today proposed that alternative strategies to reimposing a total lockdown be considered amid a series of spikes in infections which have seen daily numbers fluctuating from 3,000 to 4,000 and above.

This comes as the movement control order (MCO) covering most of the country approaches the end of its second week in force.

“The government could consider tightening the SOPs to prevent outbreaks at ignition sites and introducing clear guidance on geospatial planning such as quantifying indoor settings at any given time,” minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said in a statement.

“Additionally, we could step up targeted testing as well as regulate the costs of RTK-Antigen test kits to make Covid-19 testing more affordable and on a larger scale, particularly for industries.”

This follows a meeting the ministry had with the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham), which sparked reports that the government would immediately announce a “shutdown/strict lockdown” after Feb 4, when the MCO expires.

Eurocham later said there had been no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4, and that the letter which gave rise to the reports had been a “confidential internal circular”.

The second instalment of the MCO, imposed in six states on Jan 13, was later extended to cover most of the country.

Unlike the first nationwide lockdown in March last year, when businesses with the exception of essential services were forced to close, the so-called MCO 2.0 allows most businesses to continue operating subject to strict health SOPs.

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.

Only Sarawak remains under conditional MCO.

Azmin said it has also been suggested that SOPs for social events be tightened, while a full ban on interstate travel should be imposed for the interim.

“In any event, the call is for businesses to open on the condition precedent of full compliance with stricter SOPs,” he said.

“It cannot be overemphasised that at the end of the way, community engagement and empowerment remains key.”

MalaysiaNow previously reported that top officials in Putrajaya were stepping up the war on Covid-19, with concerns that the country could hit 3,000 new infections each day by the end of the month.

Since December, officials have been focusing on preparations for another round of infections amid a projected scenario of 5,000 daily cases by end-February, which could put further pressure on government hospitals and frontliners already treating thousands of patients every day.

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