Government Must Admit Current Half-baked MCO Has Failed, Must Prepare Proper Exit Strategy

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Press statement by YB Kelvin Yii:

The Federal Government must face the facts that they have failed to make full use of the current MCO period to ramp up necessary public health measure as recommended by experts which resulted in the current “half-baked lockdown” to fail to achieve its intended target as it did not significantly lower the country’s infection rate even though it came at a huge economic cost to many middle and small businesses especially those that were not allowed to operate during this MCO.

As we approach the end of the current MCO, with discussions whether to extend it or not, it is important the government learn from their mistakes and not repeat same old tricks and expecting different results, but instead prepare a clear exit strategy and SOPs for businesses to ease into a reboot of economic activities safely and sustainably.

Based on recent statements by the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Association of Malaysia, a approximate 100,000 companies have ceased operations since the first Movement Control Order (MCO), and an additional 50,000 may go out of business if there is any extended lockdown. A recent study shows that over half of SMEs won’t survive until September 2021 and 30% of them may fold up if the current FMCO is further extended.

I do not believe the country can afford another half-baked MCO and that is why it is essential that the government outlines a more comprehensive national roadmap for us all to live with an endemic Covid-19 based on known data and latest knowledge of the virus.

That is why, in order for this National Roadmap to be in place, the government must take at least 3 pro-active steps to make sure it is thoughtfully planned, properly announced, and effectively executed.

(1) We must have clear and science-based SOPs to significantly make changes to our work, business, and education environments to reduce Covid-19 spread.

The government must have continuous engagement between the relevant ministries with all stakeholders and industries to sort out the necessary arrangements and even allow each industries propose their set of SOPs for their type of businesses to resume operations.

This is to make sure that SOP are targeted, clear and avoid illogical SOPs like we see during this current FMCO. No one knows better the conditions on the ground than the industry players themselves and they must be allowed to give input and propose suitable SOPs with proper guidance from the Ministry of Health, to make sure it is properly carried out.

They must incorporate latest knowledge of the virus into the SOPs including more emphasis on proper ventilation to reduce airborne transmission, rather than the current emphasis on surface decontamination.

(2) The government must find ways to subsidize self-testing kits for all industries to make it affordable for industries to use it for their workers on a weekly basis to properly cut down workplace and factory clusters. This helps develop and maintain a work safety bubble to reduce risk of transmission.

By subsidizing such test kits and making it affordable, it is much cheaper in a long run than the economic cost of such industries closing all the time when there is a cluster.

This is where the government must facilitate the procurement of such test kits to make sure it reliable, sensitive, and affordable especially if purchased in bulk.

Faster test kits such as the breathalyzers approved in Singapore, that take about one to two minutes to produce the results and do not involve swabbing must be explored.

In time, almost all industries including the airport, seaport, office buildings, malls, hospitals, factories and educational institutions can use these kits to screen staff and visitors

(3) Ramp up testing in parallel with vaccination.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance on both testing and vaccination to come hand in hand. The government cannot put all eggs in one basket and expect the vaccination drive to be the only way out of this crisis. The current average nationwide positive rate is about 7%, which reflects the clear inadequate contact tracing and testing. The fact that 80% of the existing new cases are sporadic in nature is an indication on how important we must test more to identify, isolate and support as fast as possible especially in view of new variants including the feared Delta(Indian) Variant.

The facts are clear. In the near to medium term, the public will have to coexist with COVID-19; and it is incumbent on the Malaysian government to look into strategies to restart economic activities in a safe, controlled and sustainable manner while at the same time checking the spread of COVID-19.

They cannot continue to rely on “lockdowns and MCO” which has a huge economic cost at the expense of the livelihood and mental health of the people.

Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching