Consider life post-MCO, Putrajaya told

Police officers direct people past a cordoned-off area in Kuala Lumpur as the movement control order to curb the spread of Covid-19 enters its second phase on April 1.

PETALING JAYA: With just under two weeks left to go of the extended movement control order (MCO), Putrajaya has been urged to consider new measures and precautions to ensure a smooth transition back to “normal” once the partial lockdown is lifted.

Laurence Todd, director of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, said it would be impossible to return to “complete freedom” even after the order ends on April 14.

“But we need to think of the economy, too,” he told FMT.

He urged the government to “seriously consider” what might happen after the MCO to prevent the closure of companies, job losses and economic deficits.

He suggested allowing economic activities to continue in areas where the virus is under control while taking further precautionary measures at locations with high numbers of infection.

This would involve looking at the level of MCO compliance and to what extent Putrajaya should allow public movement.

He told FMT that the government should try and “exit” the MCO as soon as possible, adding that the economy cannot afford any further extensions to the order.

He said even the RM250 billion stimulus package is only meant for short-term assistance.

“We cannot continue with the MCO for very long. The government needs a strategy.”

Former World Bank economist Lim Teck Ghee suggested that Putrajaya emulate other countries which have seen some success in curbing the spread of the virus.

He gave the example of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

He also urged the government to look into the zoning and cordoning off of “hot areas”, and to hold discussions with leaders from the private and public sectors.

This would help the economy return to normal activity as quickly as possible, he said.

But even after the MCO is lifted, he said, social distancing should still be practised.

“It’s going to be a tough call as to whether sectors like education, entertainment, food and beverage, and religious gatherings, where large groups are involved, should be permitted to return to normal after April 14,” he said.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan urged the government to halt activity in areas with high rates of infection.

“The government has to decide which zones are safe for companies to operate in after April 14.”

He too said measures such as social distancing and the wearing of face masks should continue after the MCO is lifted.

He referred to reports of Chinese citizens being re-infected with Covid-19 despite an initial drop in number of cases.

“New carriers who are asymptomatic have also been reported,” he said.

However, he agreed that the MCO could not be indefinitely extended.

“We need to decide what happens after the MCO is lifted as we cannot go on implementing the order forever.”