Bracing for tough times in MCO 2.0

FROM tomorrow (Jan 13), the movement control order (MCO) will be reintroduced to states like Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor, Sabah and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, until Jan 26 to stem the Covid-19 tide.


Other states like Pahang, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan come under the conditional MCO while only two states – Perlis and Sarawak – are under recovery MCO.


This was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday and they take effect from tomorrow for two weeks.


Like it or not, the movement restrictions are going to affect everyone.


Without inter-state travels and social gatherings allowed, most business operations will suffer.


But with the Covid-19 cases surging past 2,000 mark continuously for the past week and hitting a record high of 3,309 cases today, virtually everyone whom Buletin Mutiara interviewed in Penang understand the rationale for Muhyiddin to announce the various forms of movement restrictions across the country.


The interviewees include industry players from the housing and hotel sectors, traders, hawkers, fishmongers and sports enthusiasts.


Under the MCO, eateries and hawker stalls may operate but only takeaways are allowed.


For recreational activities, outdoor recreational activities are allowed among those within the same household.


Besides that, individuals must keep 2m distance at all times.


The rules also stipulate that not more than two people are allowed to jog at any one time and that cycling is not allowed in groups; but only person is allowed.


Below are the interviewees’ views:


Tan says Penang Rehda supports the Federal Government’s decision for another MCO.


Tan Hun Beng, Penang Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) chairman:


“We definitely support the decision made by the prime minister in the face of this dangerous coronavirus. While livelihood is important, lives are even more important.


“We hope the Government can speed up in getting the vaccines. Vaccination is not a 100% cure but it will definitely help (to contain the virus) and reboot the economy.


“We, in Penang Rehda, look at the decision positively and hope that even with stricter SOPs, the essential businesses can continue to run.


“Being a prime industry at the forefront of the economy, the property industry has more than 200 downlines. By downlines, I mean people like lawyers, bankers, contractors, engineers and architects are involved directly with our industry.


“So, together with the state government and Federal Government, we will work hand in hand to see this thing through. Also, Penang Rehda supports the affordable housing policy as envisaged by YB Jagdeep Singh (state Local Government, Housing, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman).”


Raj Kumar appeals to Putrajaya to give some room for the hotel industry to operate.



K. Raj Kumar, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang Chapter chairman:


“All hotels are very sad. It’s like a roller-coaster for the hotel industry. We’ve recently picked up a little but with the reintroduction of MCO, it will be a tough challenge.


“Services is one of the five sectors allowed to operate during the MCO, but we don’t know what that exactly is.


“Room cancellations have started since last night and we expect more cancellations today.


“Some of the hotels have already hired more people. There are hotels with 50 to 400 employees. The Government subsidy is not enough to pay their salaries.


“We understand the need for a tighter control and we were hoping that the Government would give us some room to operate. If a ballroom can accommodate 1,000 people, they could have allowed us to accommodate 300 people. The airlines have collapsed; next may be the hospitality industry and tour guides.


“The hotel industry has been left aside since the MCO began in March last year. We also need some attention.


“The occupancy rate was improving over the last two weekends. For the last 10 to 12 months, we were not thinking of making money but how to survive and keep our staff employed. Many are now going to lose their jobs.


“We know it’s not going to be easy to take any action but we believe the Government can consider and still help us.”


Ong is happy that key economic sectors are allowed to operate during the MCO.


Datuk Jimmy Ong, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Penang chairman: 


“First and foremost, on behalf of the FMM Penang, I wish to thank the Federal Government for taking heed of the call of the industry players by allowing key economic sectors to continue to operate with strict SOPs during the MCO.


“It is indeed a relief to the industry players in the six states, which are the hub and heart of the country’s economic activities. It would have been detrimental to the business sector, economy and livelihood of the people if we are not allowed to operate.


“We also hope that the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) will further announce and clarify the finer details of the operations allowed during this MCO period.


“This includes clear guidelines on inter-district and inter-state travelling for employees as well as supply chain network supporting the factories.


“There should be an online application and approval by Miti without us having to go to local district police station for approval.


“Secondly, Miti should also specify the number of employees allowed per car to go to work during the MCO period.


“The industry manufacturers also should have a clear definition from the Government regarding the type of industries, trading and supporting services to ensure supply chains are not affected.


“More subsidies should be rolled out to help industries during the MCO period, especially for the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.


“The Government should also be the one to bear the cost of mass Covid-19 screening for all factories workers.


“Thus, we look forward to the expeditious release of the details to allow enough time for the industry players to plan and adjust to the required conditions.


“It is most important that the process and procedure to operate are seamless and clear for fast implementation.


“FMM also will issue an advisory to our members upon receiving the announcement of the details by Miti.”


Choong says the issue between life and livelihood is a complex one.


Datuk Finn Choong, Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC) vice-president: 


“We feel that the reimplementation of MCO for certain sectors to operate is acceptable as the issue between life and livelihood is a complex one.


“But as always, we will have to wait for more details to come from the Government over the days before we can get to see the bigger picture and its effects on the economy.


“At the same time, PCCC believes that some form of help, such as financial aid especially to the SMEs in Penang, will be welcomed as well.”


Mohd Sophie knows that to survive, he has to sell food through a delivery company during the MCO.


Mohd Sophie Hashim, 50, food trader: 


“For me, the reimplementation of the MCO will surely have a negative effect on my businesses.


“My food stall here in Seberang Jaya has just started to gain more customers after the end of the conditional MCO in December last year.


“Now with latest MCO to be enforced and only takeaways are allowed, my profits will surely go down.


“My alternative now is to sell the food through food delivery company, such as Food Panda.


“It might not be that much but at least it can help me to sustain my business.”


Shaharuddin showing off one of the items he is selling.


Sharuddin Md Dali, 64, traditional medicine seller:


“Personally, I welcome and understand the decision taken by the Government to reimplement the MCO in order to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.


“Although my business will be affected because of this announcement, I am well prepared to face it.


“After all, we need to look at it in the long term so that the country can be free from the virus.”


Fong hopes that the Government will roll out a financial aid package again.


Fong Wui Kong, 69, grocery store owner:


“I hope that with the reinforcement of the MCO, both the Federal Government and the Penang government will strongly consider to roll out the aid packages once again.


“I don’t ask for much here, just a little help from the government will do to help small traders like me in Penang.


“Otherwise, I might have to close my grocery store. I hope I don’t have to come to that.”


Cycling has been Moh’s pastime for the past eight years.


Moh Boon Seong, 48, draughtsman:


“Cycling has been my pastime for the last eight years. I usually cycle twice a week and jog twice a week. I am glad that under the new MCO, cyclists are allowed to enjoy their activity but not in groups.


“Most of the time, I cycle by myself. I usually cycle from George Town from Queensbay, or from George Town to the Botanic Gardens and then to Straits Quay and back, or from George Town to Level 5 using the tar road up Penang Hill.


“You can’t really cycle in groups because it is dangerous if you are only two metres apart. It is safer to be five to 10 metres away from the nearest rider.”


Norfazeera (left) and Shesyanee Jane enjoying a walk at Botanic Gardens.


Shesyanee Jane Che Ahmad Sharifuddin, 25, a McDonald employee, and Norfazeera Rafiee, 24, a Happy Mart employee:


“What the Government did by reimposing the MCO is correct. We only wished they had done that before the New Year as Penang was flooded with tourists from outstation.


“We believe most of the Covid-19 cases were transmitted during that time.


“We’re happy that jogging is one of the recreational activities allowed during the MCO though not more than two people are allowed to jog at any one time. At least, we’re not kept at home all the time. That would be boring.”


Fish seller Loo (right) serving a customer at her stall in Pulau Tikus Market. Looking on is Loo’s husband, Chua.


Chua Kean Huat and his wife Loo Siew Lean, fishmongers at Pulau Tikus Market:


“We’d roaring business for the last three days. People flocked to the market to buy fish, prawns and meat, maybe to stock up since they know of the impending lockdown.


“Now, we’re expecting few people to come to the market from tomorrow and bracing ourselves for a tough time. In fact, during the first MCO, our stall was the only stall in the market to close for one month,” said Chua.


Sukitkunakoon is delighted to stay in Penang.


Benyada Sukitkunakoon, a Thai tourist who is staying with a friend in Penang:


“I’m very happy to be in Penang. The Covid-19 situation in Thailand is worse than here and exacerbated by the immigrants from Myanmar.”


Story by Riadz Akmal and K.H. Ong

Pix by Eng Kok Wei and K.H. Ong