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[Scroll to the bottom for an update to this story on 27 March 2020]
In a special announcement made on 25 March 2020, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has extended the duration of the Movement Control Order (MCO), imposed on 18 March 2020, by two weeks. The MCO will now be in place till 14 April 2020.
As of 25 March 2020, Malaysia has 1,796 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
During his speech, he mentioned that according to police reports, more than 95% of the general public has obeyed the order so far. “The streets are quiet, shopping malls are closed, public recreation centres are quiet and many have followed the advice of sitting quietly at home.”
He called out some of the creative ways in which people are utilising their time at home, for example, by exercising, using Skype to stay in touch with colleagues, trying new recipes for family meals, and fathers using this time to pray and spend time with their families.
“In short, we all have the ability to adapt to the situation. Whatever challenges we may face, we will never weaken our resolve to move on. Yes, as we often hear, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going,” he affirmed.
What this means for the COVID-19 situation in Malaysia
Noting that the Government expects new cases to be recorded in the near future, he said the Ministry of Health (MOH) has prepared 3,585 beds at 34 hospitals nationwide to receive COVID-19 patients. Currently 34% of hospital bed capacity is in use, with the remaining 66% still are able to accommodate patients. Meanwhile, several areas have been identified to serve as centers of isolation and quarantine.
MOH will also increase its capacity to conduct screening tests on a larger scale. This includes doing mass testing especially in high-risk areas.
“In other words, we want to prevent infection. This strategy will be successful if people are not exposed to this virus through daily interactions. Therefore, sisters must be mentally and physically prepared to sit quietly at home for a longer period of time. Just be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time.”
Message for the general public
PM Muhyiddin shared the following messages for the general public, quoted from his speech, so as to ensure everyone stays calm during this period:
- You who are in the village do not have to rush back to Kuala Lumpur this weekend. Stay in the village first and don’t go anywhere. The kids who are supposed to go back to the dormitories do not need to go back to the dorms. Wait first.
- The offices that are still closed need not be opened. If there is something important to take care of in the next two or three weeks, plan from now on how to manage it.
- People don’t have to unnecessarily stock up on food because the supply is sufficient, assuring there is enough food for everybody.
- The PM has directed all ministries to make careful preparations to take care of basic needs during the MCO, i.e. food, electricity and water supply, waste collection and sewerage services, communication and logistics facilities as well as public safety and security.
Most importantly, he noted that the duration of this order will be reviewed from time to time. “If there is any need to go further, I will make an announcement about it.”
Support for locals, workers, and businesses
As of 24 March, the following major initiatives had already been announced in Malaysia:
- From 1 April 2020, 12mn Employees Provident Fund members aged 55 and below will be able to withdraw their savings from Account 2, subject to a maximum of RM500 per month for a period of 12 months. This will amount to an estimate of RM40bn.
- An additional allocation of RM500mn to the Health Ministry for efforts to fight COVID-19 and RM100mn to appoint 2,000 new staff, especially nurses, on contract.
- An allocation of RM130mn to all states to help the state governments handle the COVID-19 crisis.
- Postponement of the repayment of PTPTN loans involving collections up to RM750mn.
In addition to this, in this speech, PM Muhyiddin announced the following measures on 25 March:
- Delaying bank loan repayments by up to six months and restructuring credit card balances and corporate loans.
- Expected on 27 March: A package of economic stimulus that is likely to benefit everyone, from taxi drivers to daily workers. “God willing, no one will be left behind.”
- All charity organisations are urged to help the needy regardless of race and religion.
In closing, the PM called out the hard work done by front line staff, (doctors, nurses and hospital staff), as well as police and military personnel out on field work. “I have instructed the Ministry of Health to give some time for our health workers to take a break in stages before returning to work. In the meantime, volunteer work from doctors and private nurses and voluntary bodies will be mobilised to temporarily take over their jobs.”
[Update on 27 March 2020]
Following the announcement of the extension of Malaysia’s MCO, Singapore’s public transport industry has come together to extend further assistance to affected workers, i.e. Malaysians who have chosen to stay in Singapore to support the nation’s public transport services.
National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU), Executive Secretary Melvin Yong, noted on his Facebook page: “With the Malaysian government extending the MCO till 14 April 2020, we hear worries and anxiety from our affected public transport workers, especially on their accommodation arrangements.
“Thus, I am glad that all our PTOs have agreed to continue to extend the hotel accommodation and the daily allowance for the affected transport workers. This will certainly put the workers’ hearts and minds at ease so that they can continue to focus on carrying out their duties safely.”
In addition, the NTWU canteens islandwide have rolled out a special S$2 set meal for members. More than 20,000 sets have already been sold, and the promotion will be extended to 14 April 2020. In addition, a free bottle of herbal tea will also be given out today to NTWU members who purchase any food at our NTWU canteens.