Retail tycoon Ameer Ali Mydin has panned calls by some politicians for the closure of factories to curb the spread of Covid-19, calling such suggestions a populist view that will not help resolve the economic downturn.
Ameer, who owns the Mydin hypermarket chain, told MalaysiaNow that decisions on opening or closing sectors of the economy should not be based on the number of infections alone.
“Politicians are looking at these numbers to make populist decisions, but I think they are barking up the wrong tree,” he said.
“To me, it is just political manoeuvring to badmouth other politicians.”
Former prime minister Najib Razak, Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi and Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari had been among those calling on the government to close down factories.
This followed a press conference by Selangor health director Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman last Friday to clear the air on claims that the manufacturing sector was the biggest contributor of Covid-19 clusters in the state for the month of July.
The manufacturing sector recorded 96 clusters, followed by the service sector (22 clusters) and the construction site sector (18 clusters).
However, Sha’ari also said that the transmissions had occurred in workers’ hostels and quarters, adding that checks had found the level of SOP compliance at factories to be “very good”.
“Why is there a transmission? It may have taken place outside of the factory. This is what I think is happening.
“Because compliance at the factory is very good. The majority comply at the factory.
“I urge workers in the industrial sector to abide by the SOPs no matter where they are, whether in the factory or outside the factory,” Sha’ari had said.
The day before, Putrajaya had said that it would stop using the number of new cases as an indicator for states’ transition to the later phases of the National Recovery Plan. It said the number of new cases with serious symptoms would be used instead.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, who has been tasked with coordinating the recovery plan, said the number of new cases had become less relevant given the country’s vaccination rate as most cases were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
Ameer said the government’s decision to use indicators such as the number of beds available at ICUs and the rate of vaccination, the other two indicators for transition, was the right move.
He also called for “science and data” to be made the basis for decisions on whether to open or close the economy.
“As long as the factories follow the SOPs and staff are fully vaccinated, they should be opened. Those who do not comply should be severely dealt with,” he said.
On the government’s move to allow dine-in activities for fully vaccinated people in states that have progressed to Phase Two and beyond of the recovery plan, Ameer said the same policy should be extended to other retail sectors as well.
“They should be allowed to take in customers provided that they and the staff have received both doses of vaccine,” he said.