Health or economy: MCO 2.0’s chicken and egg conundrum

By Bernie Yeo


THE Government’s decision to implement the movement control order (MCO) for the second time – albeit in a more relaxed and flexible setting, especially for the economic sector – has not been an easy one to make, as there needs to be a balance between the country’s economy and the health of the people.

With Malaysia recording a four-digit spike in daily cases despite MCO 2.0, calls for a return to stricter – and total – lockdown was rife.

When the country was first placed under the MCO in 2020, almost all economic activities ceased except for essential services such as food and beverage outlets and pharmacies.

In the expense of the country’s economy, the country’s COVID-19 cases were reduced to single digits in the first half of the year. This goes without saying, therefore, that had the Government intended to make health the top priority in their battle against COVID-19, a full lockdown would have been the answer.

However, stakeholders were firm in their opposition of such a move. Entrepreneurs and retail associations have been vocal in their argument that going into a full lockdown would have serious repercussions on both the rakyat and the country’s economy. Various business sectors would collapse, they stressed, and thousands of people would have been out of jobs.

As it stands, Malaysia’s economy is still reeling from the pandemic and the first lockdown, and most have yet to rebuild their businesses back to the pre-COVID-19 levels.

In addition to drastic drop in revenue and financial losses, businesses had also faced severe challenges in terms of productivity and sustainability, and to return to those times would simply be unimaginable.

That being said, the Government needs to be given a few more weeks to carefully monitor the situation, especially now that the first phase of the national immunisation plan is set to roll out soon.

If the number of COVID-19 cases continue to spike despite the rollout of the vaccines, some adjustments – or perhaps a thorough overhaul – would then be required for the country to win against COVID-19 in the long run. – Feb 23, 2021

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