Chinese and Muslim business chambers back stricter enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions

Police checking on motorists as part of efforts to enforce the movement control order.

PETALING JAYA: Two bodies representing Chinese and Muslim businesses have backed stricter enforcement of the movement control order (MCO), as they warn of a major economic downturn brought upon by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The outbreak is a more destructive crisis than the 1997-8 East Asian Financial Crisis,” the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce (MCCC) and the Malaysian Islamic Chamber of Commerce (MICC) said in a joint statement.

They called on all parties to act responsibly and strategically, and urged the government to ensure safety nets for workers, families and businesses.

The two groups also warned that any extension of the MCO, which expires March 31, could hit businesses hard.

“If the virus continues to spread, a wider lockdown could be called which would drive companies to bankruptcy and increase unemployment and plunge society into chaos,” they said.

The statement comes amid reports that many Malaysians have not been strictly adhering to MCO requirements, including a directive to stay indoors.

MCCC and MICC said state and local authorities must come up with clear, consistent and compatible guidelines on the MCO to prevent confusion.

“There should be strict enforcement with more road blocks and legal consequences for violators,” they said.

They also called for financial and social assistance for vulnerable groups including B40 households, single parents, foreign workers and refugees, as well as easing Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawal rules for contributors.

“This will be especially vital for those whose main income source is commission.”

Financial institutions in recent days have agreed to allow delayed loan repayments.

The two-week MCO was announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday which, among others, allows only essential services to operate.