“We Have to Bite the Bullet”

Tightening Movement Control Order (MCO) to Combat the Pandemic

Agreeing to a total lockdown despite the huge economic costs involved is a necessary decision by the government to bite the bullet when push comes to shove, says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

He said the earlier decision to keep the economy open under the movement control order was not cast in stone as the pandemic situation remained dynamic.

“When the pandemic worsens, the government needs to make a bold decision with a strategic exit plan.

“That was the position we at the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) took during the National Security Council meeting on May 28, before agreeing to a total lockdown, ” said Azmin.

He was asked to comment on the stand taken by MITI to agree to a total lockdown despite its earlier stand on allowing economic sectors to continue operating albeit with stricter standard operating procedure.

Azmin said no decision by the government during the pandemic was cast in stone.

“We need to lodge an immediate caveat when making hard choices lest we get the usual retort from detractors about so-called flip flops.

“The fact is that this pandemic scenario remains dynamic and we must guard against any kind of complacency about the outcomes of a decision.

“To be sure, the decision to opt for MCO 3.0 with stringent SOP beginning May 25 by not imposing a full lockdown was not cast in stone.

“But when push comes to shove and the situation warrants an even harder choice, we must be prepared to bite the bullet, ” said Azmin.

He also said that as minister in charge of the economic affairs of the country, it was his duty to ensure the economy is able to survive a total lockdown.

Under the current MCO, all economic sectors are allowed to remain open with strict SOP, as the government had stated earlier that there is a need to keep the economy moving.

MITI had then said the government agreed to allow all economic sectors, including the manufacturing sector, to operate except for activities that are listed in the “negative list” of general SOP.

Last Friday, the special meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) unanimously decided to tighten the current MCO with more restrictions on the social and economic sectors.

But in recent days, the number of new COVID-19 cases has surged to more than 8,000 daily, prompting calls from various parties for greater restrictions despite arguments from others that a total lockdown would do irreparable harm to the economy and livelihoods.

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