PETALING JAYA: Economists have described the government’s move to relax its Covid-19 rules and SOPs as “a little too late”.
They also said it would be better to remove all restrictions to speed up economic recovery.
MARC Ratings chief economist Firdaos Rosli said the restrictions should have been lifted when the country transitioned to the endemic phase, if not earlier.
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“All this freedom and mobility should have been considered much earlier, like when the country transitioned to the endemic phase on April 1,” Firdaos told FMT.
He said since a high percentage of the population had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, it would be better to remove all restrictions so that people could go about their daily lives.
As of today, health ministry data shows that over 80% of the total Malaysian population have received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced today new relaxed Covid-19 rules and SOPs from May 1, including allowing entry to all premises regardless of vaccination status as well as forgoing physical distancing and MySejahtera check-ins. The wearing of face masks outdoors will no longer be mandatory.
With the relaxation of SOPs, Firdaos was hopeful that the economy would recover, especially the retail and service sectors. However, he was less optimistic about tourism.
“The tourism sector will not recover to pre-pandemic levels yet, especially since China, the second-largest source of tourists for Malaysia after Singapore, is grappling to bring its numbers down. Beijing is looking at the possibility of another lockdown,” he said.
Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST) said he was also in favour of ending all Covid-19 restrictions as compliance was already weak.
“The truth is that the SOPs were widely ignored anyway and the government was just bowing to the inevitable,” he said.
Williams warned that there would still be some from the medical community who would be reluctant to “give up control” so there would likely be residual restrictions that were “useless and unenforceable”.
“For example, the wearing of face masks indoors is futile as people can easily distance themselves from one another. It is virtually unenforceable in offices if nobody cares, or in e-hailing cars, unless the driver insists,” he said.
Carmelo Ferlito of the Center for Market Education (CME) called the government’s relaxation of Covid-19 rules a “move in the right direction”.
“Hopefully, the changes will bring confidence among consumers and investors and further push the country on the path to recovery,” he said.