I take note of the long-awaited announcement by the Prime Minister on the implementation of the MCO, effective from 13 January.
In recent weeks, the government has been silent on its strategy to curb the alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, which has now consistently exceeded 2000 per day.
Much speculation, confusion and unnecessary panic has prevailed since Friday in anticipation of the Prime Minister’s announcement today. Without further clarity on these measures by MITI, employers and businesses are again left without sufficient time and clarity to prepare for the MCO.
Our healthcare system is being heavily challenged and these stricter measures announced today are urgently needed to provide reprieve to our frontliners.
Transparent with the data
The Prime Minister has said that the healthcare system is at a breaking point. With this in mind, I urge that the government be unbiased in the strict enforcement of the SOPs, regardless of rank, position or political affiliation. The Sabah elections have shown us that the virus does not exempt or discriminate anyone regardless of circumstances and affiliations.
These measures are not an end to itself. As I have said before, the government must look into longer term and more effective measures to curb the pandemic such as mass testing with pooled testing, and more effective contact tracing than the MySejahtera application.
I also urge the government to be transparent with the data and help all parties to understand where the true hotspots are, specifically when it involves clusters of foreign workers.
The Ministry of Health has said that it is studying pooled testing but there are still no guidelines on it. Other countries have already proven that these measures are more effective to curb the spread than lockdown measures on its own. Again, let me reiterate that transparency is essential.
Reinstate the loan moratorium
These latest restrictions will unfortunately have a further impact on businesses and economic activity, which have yet to recover from the slew of restrictions that have been in place since March 2020. I therefore urge the government to be open about the financial economic reality of the country and how funds are being channeled to those that need it the most.
Many businesses, especially the SMEs, have yet to receive wage subsidies and will not be able to survive the protracted impact of the pandemic. These restrictions will only serve as a tipping point to those businesses that are on the verge of shutting down.
Many will lose their jobs. Many will be thrown into further despair and poverty. The government must step up immediately to announce a further RM500 million in financial aid for the next two weeks as well as other aid such as wage subsidy programs and assistance for businesses that are directly impacted. The government must also direct the banks to immediately reinstate the loan moratorium until further notice. These actions must be taken immediately.
Apart from the pandemic, several states are also suffering from floods, and are in need of urgent aid. The evacuation centers must also be closely monitored to ensure strict implementation of SOPS and prevention of further potential clusters.
This is the time for leadership and the government has to step up after months of slumber and allowing the current situation to manifest. The people need strong leadership. The people deserve strong leadership.
YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Member of Parliament for Port Dickson