Allow entertainment sector to reopen, plead musicians, but doctors differ

The Malaysian Artistes’ Association says an extension of the RMCO will be a blow to those in the entertainment industry.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Artistes’ Association (Karyawan) has urged the government to “show mercy” and allow the entertainment industry to reopen should the recovery movement control order (RMCO) be extended beyond Aug 31.

Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez said the country’s musicians had been greatly impacted by the pandemic restrictions, with many out of work since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed in March.

The lack of income had forced certain musicians to sell their instruments to raise money, while some have even been evicted from their homes, Fernandez claimed.

“Any (RMCO) extension at this time would be a huge blow for the industry as many clubs which potentially hire musicians have already closed down, and more will have no choice but to do the same,” he told FMT.

Freddie Fernandez

He said some musicians had ventured into other businesses such as selling food as a temporary income source, but this generated little income compared to their earnings pre-MCO.

Fernandez said entertainers should be given leeway to perform at restaurants or other outlets that were allowed to operate, if the RMCO were to be extended.

He contended that this could be done safely under SOPs such as practising physical distancing and disinfection of all equipment, especially microphones.

“As the rest of the country gets back to the normal routine, it is sad to see that this sector has not been allowed to do the same.

”We are pleading with the authorities. Have some sympathy for the musicians and the owners of outlets. Make them strictly abide by the SOPs and they will be most happy to cooperate with the government.”

Medical groups feel the RMCO will likely be extended, given the recent rise in the number of imported Covid-19 cases and new infection clusters being detected, which means certain restrictions must continue.

Dr N Ganabaskaran

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N Ganabaskaran said daily reports of people being arrested for flouting the RMCO was proof the country was not ready to ease the movement restrictions.

“The government should not be pressured to lift restrictions and open up more sectors. Safety must come first.

“The current restrictions should be maintained. Monitor the progress and relax restrictions only when there is a significant improvement that is consistent,” he said.

Ganabaskaran said a good indicator on when to ease regulations was if daily cases dropped to zero and stayed that way for a few weeks.

He also stressed that physical distancing, wearing face masks and practising personal hygiene were important measures that must continue until the pandemic was declared over globally.

“The government can look at relaxing restrictions for certain sectors that have not been opened such as the entertainment industry but there must be strict compliance to the SOPs.

“MMA has observed that consistent enforcement is needed or there will be a drop in compliance. This can easily lead to new clusters.

“It should be noted that one person alone can be responsible for the whole country going under lockdown. We should be mindful of these risks,” he said.

Azrul Mohd Khalib

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said extending the RMCO was the best solution to curb the spread of the virus and deter people from being complacent in observing the SOPs.

Its CEO, Azrul Mohd Khalib, told FMT they anticipated the RMCO to be extended until December.

“Given the situation in the region and around the world, an extension of the RMCO makes sense to safeguard the gains and achievements that we have managed to secure thus far.

“Until a viable and accessible vaccine is developed and a nationwide exercise is conducted to vaccinate as many in the population as possible, we should expect a certain number of cases of new infections in the population,” he said.