Total lockdown not the answer to Covid spike

Business community warns of economic collapse

25 Jan 2021 / 11:08 H.

PETALING JAYA: A total lockdown nationwide is not the answer to dealing with the rise in Covid-19 cases as it will result in economic collapse, a segment of the business community said yesterday.

SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said the government needs to come up with better options.

He was commenting on reports that Malaysia is set to announce a total economic shutdown after Feb 4, based on a letter the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) issued to members.

Kang said a lockdown will only control the spread of the virus temporarily but there is no guarantee against further spikes.

“How many lockdowns will we have to endure to deal with the virus?” he asked.

“With the present movement control order 2.0 (MCO), the nation is losing an estimated RM700 million a day, a lockdown will only make this worse,” Kang told theSun.

“There will also be social impact as people may lose their jobs. The government must find a way to (strike a) balance between protecting public health and letting the economy grow.”

He called for a task force involving all stakeholders to deal with the pandemic and the economy. The Health Ministry is more focused on combating the virus and economy is not its forte, he pointed out.

On foreign workers spreading the virus, Kang said a better monitoring system is needed. Foreign workers tend to move around for jobs and action should have been taken earlier to deal with this, he added.

The Centre for Market Education warned that a total economic shutdown would destroy the economy.

“Better data analyses and communication for people to make informed risk assessments and orient their behaviour is a much more effective way to fight Covid-19. But such data analysis strategy is yet to be seen in Malaysia,” said its CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito.

Ferlito said a total lockdown can only bring Malaysia to a devastating level of poverty.

He expressed fears that the number of people dying of poverty would be much higher than those dying of Covid-19.

A decision to completely shut down the economy, including manufacturing, can only be driven by a poor understanding of how the economy work, he pointed out

“The economy cannot be divided into independent sectors. On the contrary, it is an intricate web of connections, in particular human interactions,” Ferlito said.

“If you allow chicken farms to operate but shut down manufacturing and transports, then you don’t allow chicken to be slaughtered, packed and carried to the supermarket.

“In a nutshell, you allow a product to be produced but don’t allow people to consume it.”

Meanwhile, EuroCham Malaysia said the leaked memo was issued only for its members.

“EuroCham Malaysia wishes to clarify that while Miti underscored the heightened sense of urgency that prevails, given the rising number of cases, there was no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4, 2021, and therefore, we seek for people to remain focused on the bigger picture — doing their part to ensure that another lockdown is avoided,” it said in a statement.

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