- Small spikes of COVID-19 cases are worrying
- MCO spells trouble for nation if reinstated
- New normal practices must be continued
- Face masks may be mandatory
- Everyone is reminded to play their part
At 4pm local time today, 20 July 2020, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin addressed the nation, talking about the latest developments on COVID-19 and reminding us all to remain vigilant. The following are excerpts of his speech, divided into the different matters he covered for easier reading.
About the COVID-19 situation
“I am constantly monitoring the latest state of the COVID-19 pandemic. This epidemic is not over yet. Most foreign countries still record high COVID-19 cases. As of yesterday, nearly 14.5 million people had been infected with COVID-19 worldwide with over 600,000 deaths recorded. Although COVID-19 cases remain low in our country, I am quite concerned with the existence of 13 new clusters during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period.
“For example, the Kuala Lumpur Restaurant Cluster among restaurant workers reported since July 6, 2020 and the Stutong Cluster starting from 18 July 2020. In addition, since 7 July 2020, there have been four new clusters detected involving those returning from abroad, namely the Sarawak Cluster with three cases, Melaka Cluster with five cases, Terengganu Cluster with three cases and Kuala Lumpur Cluster with two cases.
“More worrying to me, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has returned to double-digit figures over the past few days. This situation should not be taken lightly by any of us. I am sure you do not want the government to re-implement the lock down if COVID-19 cases increase sharply. I also pray and hope that we do not have to reach that level. For three months we are all locked up at home to break the chain of COVID-19 infection. Our country’s economy has been badly affected, businesses suffered losses and many lost their jobs. Of course we do not want to live again in such a lock down situation.”
If the MCO needs to be reinstated
“If there is a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and the government is compelled to re-enforce the MCO, the impact on the economy will be substantial. The closure of economic sectors can cause the country to lose at least RM2 billion a day and directly cause the loss of income for millions of workers in Malaysia. It will also deny the efforts of the government, private sectors and NGOs under the PRIHATIN dan PENJANA packages which were meant to revive and regenerate the economy. It should be noted that the government has already announced these economic stimulus package PRIHATIN, PRIHATIN Extra and PENJANA which total RM295 billion for the well-being of the people and business continuity during this difficult period.
“More than 2.75 million jobs have been successfully saved under the Wage Subsidy program and the Employee Retention Program. Additionally, more than 800,000 businesses, including micro- and SME businesses, have benefited from these stimulus packages. PRIHATIN and PENJANA packages are estimated to contribute more than 3% of the country’s GDP growth this year. If the MCO has to be re-enforced, among its impacts include the projected GDP growth in 2021 falling out of reach. Businesses have to close again and the unemployment rate, which was at 5.3% in May 2020, could increase sharply. This is a situation we must avoid.”
What must be done
“As I have mentioned before, our success in fighting COVID-19 in this recovery phase depends on us. It depends on our awareness, our attitude and our practices. The practising of new or new normal habits must be continued. Just because COVID-19 cases are declining, that doesn’t mean that we no longer need to wear face masks in public places. Use them!
“Social distancing must also continue. Make sure your distance is at least a metre from the other and avoid crowded and cramped places. Always remember to avoid body contact too. I always advise to everyone to avoid shaking hands, but I see now that there are those who not only shake hands, but also hug when meeting friends and relatives. Yes, it is good to strengthen friendship and brotherhood, but let us not forget – we are still in the recovery phase of COVID-19. So although these old habits are good in terms of social interaction, but they are very bad in terms of our efforts to protect ourselves and those around us from being infected with the COVID-19 virus.
“As many positive COVID-19 cases occur among those returning or arriving from abroad, the Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to strengthen control at the country’s international entrances. Among the steps taken are screening and checking of body temperature and respiratory tract infection symptoms upon arrival, reviewing the results of PCR COVID-19 screening done three days before the visitors left for Malaysia, referring cases that are symptomatic or COVID-19 positive to the hospital, issuing a monitoring and observation order at home under section 15 (1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 for 14 days, ensuring that every person arriving in Malaysia downloads and activates the MySejahtera app, requiring them to wear a bracelet, and ensuring that they undergo a COVID-19 detection test on the 13th day of quarantine at home before being released on the 14th day.*
“I would also like to remind those who have returned from abroad to undergo quarantine at home for 14 days with full discipline. Sit in a separate room from other family members and never leave the house during the quarantine period. You must also perform a self-health status assessment using the MySejahtera application. If symptoms occur, notify the nearest District Health Office immediately. If you fail to comply with these instructions, penalties may be imposed under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 if convicted . If necessary, the government will place Malaysians returning home from abroad at quarantine centres to control import cases more effectively. Law enforcement will also be enhanced with heavier fines imposed on those found to be in violation of laws and regulations.”*
*[UPDATE: Majlis Keselematan Negara (MKN) has decided to revert to the mandatory quarantine process at designated quarantine centres for anyone entering the country, Malaysian or otherwise, starting from Friday, 24 July 2020.]
Possible mandatory wearing of face masks, and other reminders
“The government is also considering to make it mandatory to wear face masks in public places. Details on this will be announced when the relevant regulations are finalised by the government.
“In this phase of the RMCO, every individual, family and community is a front-line worker or front-liner. Family members and members of the community must always advise and look out for each other. Parents must always remind their children to not only wear a face mask when leaving the house, but practise social distancing, wash their hands, avoid crowded places, do not shake hands and so on. Remind them every day.
“In the workplace, employers must always remind employees to comply with the prescribed SOPs. Always monitor your employees. Put notices or reminders about SOPs that need to be complied with in a conspicuous place. In schools, principals, headmasters, teachers, supervisors and class monitors need to play a more proactive role. Remind your students and friends to always take care of social distancing and comply with all SOPs set by the Ministry of Education.
“I also want to remind the village heads, priests and community leaders to take care of their respective communities. The village head together with the members of the village committee can, for example, make visits or patrols to places that are often visited by the villagers. Whether in coffee shops, restaurants, morning markets or shops selling daily necessities, advise them to wear face masks and take care of social distancing. I believe if we can all play our respective roles in breaking the COVID-19 infection chain, we will be able to go through this phase of RMCO successfully. We have just seen the positive effects of the government’s firm action and the discipline of the people during the implementation of the MCO. Our country’s economy has started to revive and we have also been able to enjoy our lives again by adopting new habits.
“However, let us not be careless and negligent. I want to remind you once again that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet. So, let us remain steadfast in maintaining our success against the virus.”