In about 24 hours, the Malaysian government will be making a decision to either lift the Movement Control Order (MCO), or extend it beyond 14 April.
Up to this point, there have been speculations that the government will be extending the MCO, but those are just speculations at the moment.
Over the past couple of days, the government has been quiet on the issue, but all signs are pointed towards a possible extension.
Ministers stay mum
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said during a briefing on Wednesday (8 April) that at the moment, the government had yet to decide on an extension.
Ismail said there are a few days left before the end of MCO Phase Two, and the government will decide when the time comes.
"We do not know what will happen after that but we must try to break the spread of the Covid-19 chain completely,” he was quoted as saying.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, meanwhile, said that the Health Ministry needed "a day or two" before they come up with a recommendation for the government.
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali also said that if needed, the Health Ministry would recommend whether an extension is needed.
Azmin told The Star Online
that the Ministry has informed the government that they would be monitoring the situation more closely before making a recommendation.
“As part of the National Security Council committee, I have yet to receive any notification up till now as to a meeting with the Prime Minister and NSC,” he was quoted as saying.
Brace for an extension
While the ministries are staying mum, a government source told The Star Online
that the Cabinet has indeed had conversations about the possibility of extending the MCO beyond 14 April.
The source told the news portal that one of the key discussions the Cabinet touched on during their meeting on Wednesday (8 April) is helping industries cope with their businesses should the MCO be extended.
According to the source, ministries were reportedly told to prepare for all possibilities pertaining to their portfolios accordingly.
“Ministries were told to prepare the standard operating procedures on operations during the MCO for the industries which come under their ministries," he was quoted as saying.
Economists, meanwhile, have long believed that an MCO extension is very likely due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
However, the economists want the government to enforce partial lifting should the MCO be extended to reduce the country's economic losses.
Sunway University Business School economics Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng told News Straits Times
that the government should have a fair measure to control the outbreak while also ensuring that our economy does not suffer great losses.
“The government should consider a partial lifting for manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors as long as it can identify safe zones for operators to resume their operations,” he was quoted as saying.
The sectors that Dr Yeah believed that the government could be more lenient on include the food and beverage industry, as well as selected essential services.
Current COVID-19 situation
For the government to consider lifting the MCO, they would have to see a clear decrease in new COVID-19 cases, but unfortunately, it has not happened so far.
The latest data released by Health Ministry shows that they are currently 24 red zones in Peninsular Malaysia.
Selangor has recorded the most COVID-19 cases and most red zones with 1,078 confirmed cases as of Thursday (9 April).
Wuhan in China, which is known as the epicenter of the virus, has just recently lifted their lockdown restrictions - 76 days after the city was sealed off on 23 January.
According to a report by CNN
, healthy residents were only allowed to leave Wuhan on Wednesday (8 April).
The decision was made after the country recorded nearly zero new local infections in recent weeks, the news site reported.
If we were to follow in the footsteps of Wuhan, the minimum criteria for the government to consider lifting the MCO is zero daily new cases for at least a week.
So, judging by our current numbers -- as well as the expected boom in COVID-19 cases in mid-April -- it should come as no surprise if the government decides that an MCO extension is needed.