Public health comes first, says Putrajaya

PUTRAJAYA: The government today spoke of a need to balance public safety with the economic toll from the Covid-19 outbreak, as it addresses the concerns of the business community through the formation of a senior Cabinet team from the defence and economy cluster to look into the economic impact of the deadly virus.

At a press conference here today, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government understood the unhappiness of the private sector.

“At the same time, we want to make sure that Covid-19 is curbed. We want people saved.

“But the government knows there has to be a balance between safety and the economy,” he said.

He said the Cabinet had set up a special committee comprising senior ministers to discuss the way forward in helping industry players.

“But our focus is on the safety of the rakyat,” he added.

Malaysia is currently in the second phase of the movement control order (MCO) which will continue until April 14.

When asked if the MCO would be extended beyond April 14, Ismail said positive cases were showing a near-plateau of between 140 and 150 cases per day.

“If the MCO is followed, I believe it may drop.

“We pray for that,” he added. “It will be decided by the health ministry.”

As for Ramadan bazaars, he said it might have been the suggestion of Kuala Lumpur City Hall or the federal territories minister for bazaars to be held during the fasting month.

“No formal discussion has been held on this because it is still too early,” he said.

“We need the health ministry’s views on this.”

So far, he said, police have arrested 4,189 for flouting the MCO, 1,449 of whom have been charged in court.

In some cases, he added, detainees were sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for not only defying the order but also obstructing police officers from carrying out their duty.

“A lot of Malaysians are still stubborn,” he said.

According to him, 687 roadblocks have been held with 380,342 vehicles checked and 23,586 spot-checks carried out.

On March 31, there were 583 arrests followed by 562 the next day – a drop of 3.2%.

“If this trend continues, it would be good,” he said, adding that the police are expected to issue stern warnings to those who disobey the MCO.

Public sanitation exercises which began on March 27 will continue, with SOPs issued by the health ministry for infected areas to be sterilised.

“This will also be done at homes.”

Those crossing Malaysian borders by air, sea or land must undergo quarantine, including in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Buses will send them to quarantine centres,” he said, adding that the officers stationed there would provide food and drinks.