Just scrap the useless MCO, enforce simple SOP

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Forty industries lose confidence and demand end of lockdown.

The clueless government under the leadership of Muhyiddin Yassin has to make up its mind – either impose a full economic lockdown or reopen every economic sector. A half-baked lockdown like the MCO 2.0 isn’t working. In fact, it makes the situation worse for business. What’s the point of allowing business to open without customers due to travel restrictions?

Tuesday’s decision to extend the second MCO (Movement Control Order) – MCO 2.0 – until Feb 18 was not only a joke, but a waste of valuable time to business struggling to make ends meet. It seems the backdoor government is running round like a headless chicken. It is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, something which Albert Einstein called “insanity”.

The joke at coffee shops is that Muhyiddin will tell health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah to ask “Turtle Egg” Ismail Sabri what to do next about the Covid-19 pandemic. The turtle egg Sabri will pass the ball to colleague “Kerisman” Hishammuddin, who in turn says should refer to his president, Zahid Hamidi. “Komedi” Hamidi will say he has no power, so go ask the PM Muhyiddin.

And the above process repeats itself. That explains why Prime Minister Muhyiddin does not know what to do hence keep his silence most of the time. That also explains why Senior Minister Sabri always says the SOP (standard operating procedure) is still not ready. Likewise, both Hishammuddin and Zahid fail to offer any non-racist creative ideas to fight the virus.

That’s why the extension of MCO 2.0 was hastily announced at the eleventh hour, despite a pre-emptive statement from Noor Hisham on Jan 25 that the partial lockdown will not be extended. The health director-general was caught by surprise over the extension as the same government had expressed to him the intention not to prolong the movement control order.

Mohd Sahar Misni/The Star

During a previous virtual media briefing, Noor Hisham said – “We have implemented the MCO on Jan 13 and we decided to extend the MCO until Feb 4. We do not want to extend the MCO because this will affect our economy. So, we must balance between our economy and health.” So, who was “we” as mentioned by him that did not want to extend the MCO, if not the government itself?

Noor Hisham reportedly said as a replacement, the government will implement the milder Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) for three months until May to continue curbing the four-digit of new daily infections. However, his remark was an admission that not only MCO 2.0 was a mistake and a failure but also a political gimmick to justify the proclamation of emergency rule.

Unable to explain the need to continue with an emergency rule while the MCO is to be downgraded to CMCO, the panicked Muhyiddin government was forced to extend the MCO 2.0, even though it serves no purpose. Not only the prime minister thought he can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but also fool all the people all the time.

Azhar Mahfof/The Star

Exactly why do you need the MCO 2.0 in the first place when it was almost the same as the CMCO, let alone extend it for another 14 days until Feb 18 after wasting 23 days without any improvement in curbing the pandemic? Can you see how foolish the backdoor government will look if it were to proceed with its plan to replace the MCO with CMCO, as hinted by Noor Hisham?

Despite all the lies and bragging by Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz about the government having enough cash to fund its massive economic packages totalling around RM320 billion – the largest ever – it has failed to excite the economy. It was the Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, who admitted alternative strategies are needed.

To lend credence to the writing on the wall that the Perikatan Nasional government has lost the confidence of the business community, a coalition of 40 trade, business and professional associations – “Industries Unite” – have expressed their rejection of the extension of the MCO lockdown. And this is a big deal because the group is represented by “multiracial” business community.

Yes, the industry representatives are not any pro-Chinese, pro-Malay or pro-Indian business group, but a collective representation of small enterprises from every single ethnicity. In its joint press statement, the Industries Unite have lectured the government how thousands of retail outlets have closed down since MCO 2.0, and more may never be able to recover with the latest extension.

The nationwide business community also appeared to ridicule the Muhyiddin administration, saying the lack of a clear path forward will hinder any possible business recovery. It also mocked the clueless government that bi-weekly extensions of lockdown are doing more harm than good as businesses need to plan ahead, without which vital decisions cannot be made.

The coalition, which included Bumiputera Retailers Organization, MATTA and PIKOM, further expressed its concerns – “We expect that we will see the death rate of businesses spike during this period. The unemployment rate will also rise. This inevitably will put further stress on the economy and vital supply chains, and the economy is a complex ecosystem.”

The Industries Unite said the government should engage and work with them – “We urge the government to work with us to come up with an immediate emergency plan to keep businesses going, a six-to-12-month stabilisation plan, and thereafter, a three-year recovery plan. We strongly urge the government to lift the MCO. People may be saved from the virus but die of poverty.”

More importantly, the joint statement openly announced that there is a “serious lack of confidence” in the business community with the indecisive and incompetent government. Even though the government was trying to test the water by suggesting that all business sectors could be allowed to reopen, it would be meaningless if people cannot travel interstate or inter-district.

At the current stage, the country does not need any MCO or CMCO. What the country needs is stricter compliance with health SOP like wearing a mask. Last month, the journal Royal Society Open Science revealed that face masks can block 99.9% of large Covid-linked droplets when speaking or coughing. But the proper way of wearing a mask is equally important.

Instead of putting the mask over nose and mouth, some brilliant ministers have set a very bad example by covering only the mouth. Other arrogant ministers simply put the mask under their chain, potentially inhaling – and even spreading – the Coronavirus. That explains why dozens of government ministers and politicians have tested positive for the virus.

Simple but effective policies like washing hands with sanitizer, wearing masks and social distancing are some of the easiest SOP that should have been enforced without double standards from the beginning. The prime minister should realize that every Tom, Dick and hamster knew MCO 2.0 is a political gimmick to enable him to cling to power.

Even if PM Muhyiddin wanted to pretend that he cares about business and employment, at the very least he should come out with a story that makes sense. To claim an emergency rule is mandatory to fight Covid-19 only to implement a half-baked MCO that allows most of the business to operate, but at the same time impose travel restriction is simply too incompetent and unbelievable.

There has been zero “Pub Cluster” since the pandemic started more than a year ago in January 2020. On the contrary, there have been tons of manufacturing, construction and factory clusters detected. Yet, those infected industries are allowed to open for business, but not the pub industry. Could the genius government explain such bizarre discrepancy and inconsistency?

To make matters worse, Noor Hisham has just confirmed what we had suspected for months – the so-called “new daily cases” are not real time, but data or statistic that are so corrupt that they were over a month late. That means data, which the Health Ministry suspiciously had refused to share, could have been manipulated or faked to suit the political purpose of Muhyiddin regime.

Hilariously, when the premier dramatically addressed the nation on January 11 to announce the MCO 2.0, the new cases of Covid-19 on that day were 2,232. He claimed the healthcare system was about to collapse – can no longer cope with over 2,000 new cases per day. Yet, even after the infections more than doubled to above 5,000 for days, the healthcare system miraculously survives.

It’s true what the Industries Unite said – there is a serious lack of confidence in the government. PM Muhyiddin should save everyone from unnecessary agony of lockdown. The Chinese Lunar New Year is one of the biggest celebrations that businesses are looking forward to. Just scrap the MCO and let everyone travel with simple yet effective SOP because thanks to the power-crazy Muhyiddin, the pandemic is already out of control. – Finance Twitter