The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), the Malaysian Bar Council and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) have called on the government to begin implementing a lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 in the country.

MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said Malaysia now has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia. The Health Ministry recorded 125 new cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia today, bringing the total number of cases to 553 so far. “It has become clear in recent days that the government’s response to the pandemic is woefully inadequate to check the alarming rate Covid-19 is spreading in the peninsular, as well as in East Malaysia. “Despite that, schools, universities and colleges remain open, as are factories and other workplaces where thousands of people – adults and children – congregate for long hours. “Restaurants, stalls, coffee shops and bistros continue to open till wee hours of the day with little regard for sanitation and cleanliness or the hygiene of their patrons. “In short, its business as usual,” said MTUC in a statement today. Solomon said Italy, France, and the United States have declared an emergency, with varying degrees of lockdown within their borders. Similarly, the Sri Lankan government ordered to close schools and imposed restrictions to minimise public gatherings after only five Covid-19 cases there, he said. Solomon said however in Malaysia, the government “seems averse” to drastically lessen public interaction to reduce the risk of mass infections. “As such, MTUC is urging the government to come out with clear and unambiguous measures on its plans to further reduce large scale public interactions,” he said. Solomon also said the government has to make a clear stand if schools and risky workplaces such as factories should be closed and stopped temporarily.

Meanwhile the MATTA has urged the Cabinet to declare an “all-out” war against Covid-19 by imposing a lockdown. MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said instead of continuing with “protracted battles on a piecemeal basis”, the government should have a lockdown. “An all-out war requires the entire country to be locked down, and this is what many European nations have already done and more countries are expected to follow suit. “The global outbreak of the Covid-19 has reached a scale where nations have to take bold and drastic measures,” said Tan in a statement on Monday. Datuk Tan said with the number of positive cases standing at 428, the initial response to contain the outbreak is no longer successful. As such, more effective measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus. DatukTan added that a lockdown should provide sufficient notice and be clearly spelt out, and not perceived as 24-hour curfew, which will result in panic buying and hoarding. He said mechanisms must also be in place to reduce unnecessary hardships to the rakyat, as well as remaining tourists still holidaying in Malaysia.

In a related development, the Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the Bar Council was dismayed at the government’s delay in instituting a lockdown of the nation due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases. “Since the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, various concerned citizens including doctors and healthcare frontliners have implored the government to institute a lockdown of the nation. “There are now cases in most states in Malaysia, with the majority in the Klang Valley. Many other countries have imposed states of emergency and directives to curb the spread of virus, including heavily affected countries such as Italy, the United States and Iran, while less affected countries like Sri Lanka and the Philippines are doing the same,” he said in a statement Monday. The council calls for a multipronged approach, at all levels of society, to effectively contain the spread of virus, he added. “We believe the government should act in accordance with the powers vested in it by the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (PCIDA). “Pursuant to section 11 of the PCIDA, the government may declare that a particular area is infected, and under section 31(t) of the PCIDA, the government possesses a wide discretion to make regulations for the prevention or mitigation of infectious diseases,” he said.

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