JOHOR BAHRU- Covid-19 was first detected in Malaysia on 25 January 2020 among three Chinese citizens who entered Malaysia through Singapore on 23 January 2020. The 2020 MCO, often referred to as partial lockdown, signifies a major step taken by the Malaysian Government to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The order, announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday evening, mainly aims to limit large gatherings to decrease the chance of the virus spreading. All houses of worship and business premises must be closed except for supermarkets, public markets, convenience stores and shops selling everyday necessities.
Friday communal prayers, obligatory for Muslims, have been suspended. Malaysians returning from overseas must undergo a health check and self-quarantine for 14 days. Restrictions have also been imposed on the entry of tourists to Malaysia, but foreigners will be allowed to leave the country.
The MCO triggered considerable movements prior to its implementation, with Malaysian citizens travelling back home. Such movements, together with other movements at the commencement of the MCO prior to a stricter enforcement, characterized by localized gathering at markets and vacation spots, increased the risk of Covid-19 transmission, which was linked to the upsurge of daily Covid-19 cases over the following 14 days, peaking on 26 March.
Subsequently, the MCO saw progressively more stringent enforcement, with road blocks established across the country and the military forces mobilized to enhance MCO enforcement.
As its name suggests, the MCO aims to control the movement of people in order to reduce infection through personal contact through three main actions which are Shutting down government and private premises, travel ban, restriction of movement within the country.
Due to the Movement Control Order imposed by the Malaysian government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the business sectors are not allowed to operate as usual or at full capacity.
Over 66% of businesses experienced a drastic drop in demand that made it difficult to sustain a business due to the decline in private consumption. In 2020, private consumption is forecasted to decrease by 0.7% in 2020 due to reduced household spending.
Malaysian Government has proactively taken many initiatives to stimulate and boost the economy, as well as increase private consumption.
Under the MCO regime, people can leave their homes only for essential tasks including grocery shopping, getting medicine and seeing a doctor. All economic, industrial and business activities are allowed to operate, but with strict adherence to standard operating procedures.
From 1 April onwards, operating hours of all businesses were limited to 8 am to 8 pm, and all citizens were confined to a 10-km travel radius while traveling for the purchase of essentials was limited to only one person at one time from each household.
Residents in locations identified as hotspots of Covid-19 underwent stricter MCO, with prohibition of permanent and temporary residents in those areas from leaving their homes and prohibition of non-residents from entering.
Food was provided by the government to the affected individuals, and medical bases were set up in those areas. Restaurants will remain open for dine-in service but with a maximum of two people per table. Authorities encourage people to order take-away and delivery instead.
COVID-19’s daily increasing cases and deaths have led to worldwide lockdown, quarantine and some restrictions. This study aims to analyze the effect of lockdown days on the spread of coronavirus in 49 countries.
This study offers initial evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic can be suppressed by a lockdown. In addition, other parameters such as demographic of population, density of populations, the parameters of weather, economy, infrastructure of healthcare systems may be considered in the studies considering that it may be effective on COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, the application of lockdown by governments is also thought to be effective on psychology, environment and economy with it being effective on COVID-19.
Furthermore, all foreign visitors are prohibited from entering Malaysia. Learning institutions of all types at all levels were closed in addition to all government and private premises, except providers of essential services comprising energy and electricity, telecommunication, finance and banking, health, fire-fighting, defense, transportation and logistics, and etc.
Violators of the MCO are subject to a fine amounting to RM1000 and a maximum of 6 months imprisonment.
Though doubts on effectiveness of the MCO were raised at the early stage of its implementation as mass movements persisted, strict enforcement and improved awareness of the impacts of Covid-19 have brought significant improvement in compliance, which has been deemed the main reason behind the decrease in new Covid-19 cases since mid-April.
The Malaysian experience points to compliance and cooperation of the public as essential elements for the success of interventions by the government to contain Covid-19. Nonetheless, the socioeconomic implications of such interventions require attention and proper handling.
By PUTERI QURRATU AINI – Sunday, 27 November 2020
- Elsevier – sciencedirect.com
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