Sin Chew Daily
The first phase of national recovery plan is supposed to end on June 28. However, prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has announced that the first phase of lockdown will be extended until daily new infection numbers go below 4,000.
According to the national recovery plan announced earlier, daily new infections must be fewer than 4,000 cases in order for the country to move on to the second phase. Nevertheless, for the past few days our daily infection numbers have been hovering above the 5,000-mark and many have already anticipated that the first phase of nationwide lockdown would be extended.
It is understandable for the government to extend the phase one but at the same time, the government should also realize the impact this will have on the market, local businesses as well as the livelihoods of the people, and should take the necessary actions to help them through this crisis.
During the complete lockdown, the country has lost about RM1 billion each day, and this sums up to an immense economic loss.
Late May, when the government announced the full lockdown from June 1 to 14, many SMEs and small local businesses were struggling to stay afloat. But then when the government announced later to extend the lockdown for another 14 days in order to flatten the infection curve, many people had to further tighten their belts. Their sacrifices have sadly not brought a full stop to the first phase lockdown but a further extension!
Notably, this time there will be no deadline set for the extension but will go on until the daily new infection number has come below 4,000. This means that if the situation does not improve, companies and Malaysians in general must be mentally prepared for the first phase lockdown to be in force for quite some time.
We have gone through a number of cycles of lockdowns and reopenings since the MCO 1.0 was first enforced last year. Many companies have been running out of funds, some already winding up while others struggling very hard on the brink of closure.
According to a survey conducted by the ministry of entrepreneurship development and cooperative in March, more than 90% of micro businesses and SMEs said they would close down if the lockdown were to be extended. This shows that SMEs are facing a very serious threat of survival.
Last week, Malaysian Hairdressing Association estimated that at least 30% of hair salons in the country will close down if the nationwide lockdown is continually extended, while Malaysia Garments Wholesale Merchants Association anticipated a new wave of business closures, hurting not just the companies but also sending unemployment rate higher and battering the overall economy.
The prime minister will announce more aid packages on Monday to help affected SMEs as well as specific communities, including the 40.
As we have no idea when the nationwide lockdown will be lifted, it is imperative for the government to draw up appropriate aid packages to help local businesses as well as individuals.
Additionally, extended lockdown will never be a feasible long-term solution, and the government will not have sufficient funds to keep providing assistance to companies and the rakyat over protracted periods of lockdowns. In view of this, it is absolutely necessary for us to expedite the vaccination program which is the ultimate solution to deliver us out of the pandemic.
In recent days we have recorded new highs in our daily vaccination rates, which is a very encouraging development. But the thing is, due to inadequate supply of vaccines, some of the people who have been given appointments are unable to get vaccinated. Such incident should not have taken place during this crucial moment. The authorities must draw a lesson from this incident and plan properly in order to defeat the virus.
How long the lockdown will be extended depends very much on how fast we immunize our people. The number of new cases will only drop if we have substantial numbers of people receiving the vaccines, meaning reopening is on the horizon.