Most businesses to reopen during Malaysia’s MCO extension: Sources

Army and police personnel conducting roadblocks during the movement control order (MCO) in Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3, 2021, ST. More sectors of Malaysia’s economy will be reopened during the movement control order (MCO) extension that begins on Friday (Feb 5), industry and government sources told The Straits Times.

This comes despite rising coronavirus infections and the government’s insistence on stricter protocols during the new two-week period of movement curbs.

“We are reversing the strategy. Instead of listing those that can operate, we are listing those that can’t,” said an official who could not be named due to the confidentiality of the matter.

An industry source also revealed that “the International Trade and Industry Ministry will hold a virtual meeting with relevant trade groups this week to brief on the new standard operating procedures (SOPs)”.

Besides beauty and grooming, others such as retail and wholesale retailers and car wash services are among those expecting to end three weeks of closure.

Manufacturing and construction, which have been the main cause of new clusters this year, will also be expected to abide by tougher and costlier SOPs.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday when announcing the MCO extension that “we are giving more leeway to economic sectors, especially small businesses, because we understand a full lockdown will be most difficult for the poorest”.

But Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, who is also Defence Minister, warned that the authorities will be imposing stricter guidelines and enforcing them more aggressively to curb the Covid-19 outbreak which saw a new daily high of 5,728 last Saturday and a record 21 deaths on Tuesday.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim cautioned on Wednesday that new regulations should be simple and clear instead of “changing every week”.

“We agree there should be strict rules but there has to be clarity. At roadblocks, even police say ‘there are too many’,” he said.

Industries Unite, a coalition of 40 trade associations largely representing small enterprises, hailed the move to open up the economy.

“We encourage all member associations to remind members to observe strict compliance with SOPs to assist the government to bring the numbers down,” it said in a Facebook posting.

The group said on Tuesday when the MCO extension was announced that “a structured recovery” was needed, and urged the government “to work with us to come up with an immediate emergency plan to keep businesses going, a six- to 12-month stabilisation plan and thereafter a three-year recovery plan.”

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