Putrajaya has announced a complete lockdown across the country from June 1 to 14 amid a fierce spike in new Covid-19 cases which today hit an all-time high of over 8,000.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the decision was made at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) today chaired by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
All sectors will be prohibited from operating during this period except for the essential economic and services sector, with a list to be issued by the NSC.
The statement by the PMO said the lockdown would be in three phases.
“If Phase One of the lockdown succeeds in reducing daily Covid-19 cases, the government will implement Phase Two, which is to allow the reopening of some economic sectors that do not involve large gatherings and can be subject to physical distancing.”
It said the second phase would last four weeks after the end of the first phase, adding that the third phase would be the MCO as it is currently practised, with a ban on social activities, and most economic sectors allowed to operate subject to strict SOPs.
“However, the decision to move from one phase to another will be subject to risk assessments by the health ministry.
“Assessments will be made based on developments in the number of daily cases and the capacity of hospitals nationwide to treat Covid-19 patients.”
It also said the finance ministry would detail stimulus packages for the people and affected economic sectors, with an announcement to be made in the near future.
This comes days after health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned Malaysians “to brace for the worst” amid an exponential trend indicated by the Covid-19 graph in the country.
MalaysiaNow understands that the topic had been “hotly debated” in recent days during the daily Covid-19 meetings between the relevant agencies tasked with advising and updating Putrajaya on measures to fight the pandemic.
“While there is a fairly well articulated argument on the need to maintain a balance between lives and livelihoods, the sharp spike in recent days indicate that the worst fear of our entire health sector collapsing makes the case for life to take precedence more favourable to the powers that be,” a source said.
“But what is more worrying to health experts advising the government is the fact that the ICU facilities have all been filled up, and there are signs that even the use of private hospitals might not be enough if the trend is not stopped.”
Daily cases have in recent weeks shown no sign of letting up, especially since the start of the MCO just days before the Hari Raya festivities earlier this month.
Just today, Malaysia recorded an all-time high of 8,290 new cases, with only half that number recovering in the past 24 hours.
There are also more than 72,000 active cases, with 808 people being treated in the ICU and about 400 needing to be intubated.
The pandemic has so far infected more than half a million people in the country, killing 2,552.
In an interview last week, Muhyiddin said he personally preferred a full lockdown, but had to consider other factors including the financial constraints on the government.
“I am not a doctor but personally, that’s the best way to contain the virus. This method has proven to be the most effective and also the easiest for the government, but we didn’t have any experience handling this pandemic before,” Muhyiddin said.
But he said the first lockdown, dubbed MCO 1.0, had caused the country some RM2.4 billion in daily losses, with the government forced to spend RM340 billion in massive cash handouts as well as various stimulus packages to revive the economy.
The MCO was first imposed on March 18 last year with only essential services allowed to remain open. At that time, the daily average of cases in Malaysia was below 100.
The MCO was extended several times until June, when the country transitioned to conditional MCO with most sectors and businesses reopening after three months.
But cases began to spike around September last year, in the aftermath of the Sabah state election, and since then have shown no sign of abating despite various measures and tighter SOPs.
The spike has led to worries that any political instability could lead to nationwide snap polls, something health authorities have strongly warned against.
In January, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong declared a state of emergency, suspending the Parliament but also giving wide powers to authorities in battling the pandemic.