In East Malaysia, some are okay with MCO extension

Small business owners have been badly affected by the movement control order imposed to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

KOTA KINABALU: Some people in Sabah and Sarawak are ready to support an extension of the movement control order (MCO), but there are those who dread the prospect.

The latter include daily wage earners and small business owners whose livelihoods have been badly affected by the stay-at-home directive.

Those supporting an extension say they want to see the end of Covid-19 as soon as possible.

Oil and gas worker Hector Mervyn Stephen told FMT his family initially had some problems adjusting to the MCO, but had since got used to staying at home and would now have no trouble doing so for another week or two.

He has three children aged nine, 11 and 13. He said a week of complying with the MCO had resulted in a strengthening of family bonds.

“Better to have an extension of the order for the safety of all,” he said. “We don’t want to end up like Italy where actions to curb the spread of the virus came a bit too late.”

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that the government might consider extending the order by up to two weeks, but would make a decision only on March 30, a day before the current order expires.

Exotic fruit stall operator Ali Rustam told FMT he hoped the two-week MCO could be shortened.

He said his sales began to drop nearly a month ago, when travel restrictions were imposed in Sabah. Since the MCO came into effect, he added, he had not been able to sell anything at all.

“My only hope is that the Sabah government will soon announce the stimulus package that is supposed to help us stall owners,” said the sole breadwinner for his family.

Civil servant David Noyd said it would be better for all shops, schools and non-essential businesses to stay closed until Covid-19 had ceased to be a threat.

He said he would not want to have his wife or children hospitalised, but added that he did find it a challenge to keep his children occupied.

“I’ve had to come up with a schedule for when it is time for them to play, watch television and study,” he said.

Lim Heng Choo, a lawyer in Sarawak, said he believed the government would extend the MCO.

He said he would support the sacrifice of personal freedoms in dire situations.

“Community interests are paramount,” he said. “Otherwise the people may perish. If that happens, there won’t be any individual right as there won’t be anyone around to demand it.”

The manager of a private firm in Sarawak who called herself Amy said she wasn’t looking forward to any extension of the MCO as it was affecting business operations.

“For example,” she said, “the shorter working hours would definitely affect the salaries of employees who are paid daily.”

Sarawak’s Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian, who also holds a watching brief on health and medical matters for the state Cabinet, said he believed it was prudent to delay deciding on an extension of the MCO until next week.

“It is still to early to decide,” he said. “The incubation period is 14 days. Today is just Day 6. There may be some patients who are yet to show any symptoms of having contracted the virus.”

Property developer Chew Shang Hai said the matter should be left to the federal government to decide, adding that there should be no political interference.

Rungus Bumiputera Sabah Association chairman Sazalye Donol said the government should strictly enforce the MCO and police should arrest those violating it.

He said it was not enough for the police to just issue warnings.