Tourism and hospitality players have welcomed the move by the Malaysian authorities to impose a full nationwide lockdown for two weeks beginning tomorrow (June 1) in a bid to flatten the Covid-19 curve.
The announcement made on Friday night comes after a record surge of 8,290 new cases on that day. This record was broken the following day with 9,015 new cases.
This will mark the country’s second full nationwide lockdown, following the movement control order (MCO) initiated last year in March for almost two months to stamp out Covid-19.
During this fresh lockdown from June 1 to 14, only essential and service sectors will be allowed to operate. This includes health services, the food and beverage industry, as well as banks and transport services including ports and airports.
Hotels and accommodation are allowed to open, but only for the purposes of quarantine, and not tourism.
The government has also decided that 80 per cent of civil servants and 40 per cent of the private sector will work from home.
If the 14-day lockdown succeeds in reducing daily new infections, the government will move to a four-week Phase 2, where economic sectors may resume, provided there are no large gatherings involved and physical distancing is possible.
This will be followed by Phase 3, where economic sectors are allowed to operate, but social activities are not allowed. The decision to move from one phase to the next will be based on risk assessment.
The tourism and hospitality sectors are in agreement that a complete lockdown is much needed to break the current spread of Covid-19 infections in the community as well as to ensure the long-term survival of all businesses and industries.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president, Uzaidi Udanis, shared: “MCO 1.0 was a success, no one can deny it. It had helped to flatten the curve. We had been calling for a similar lockdown to MCO 1.0.”
He added that concurrently, Malaysia also needs to speed up the pace of its national vaccination programme as that seems to be the only way out of this pandemic.
“Our members are also willing to volunteer the use of all our assets including vans and tour buses to speed up the vaccination programme by providing free transport and manpower to bring people to the vaccination centres,” he said.
MITA’s voluntary service comes in the wake of several news reports that the take-up rate for vaccination is low. It has also been reported that more than 14,000 mostly senior citizens in Johor, 11,000 in Kedah and about 10,000 in Kedah, did not show up for their appointments, with common reasons being not having transport to get to the vaccination centres and not having someone to accompany them there.
On the new lockdown, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president, N Subramaniam, opined: “The government must ensure that implementation (of mobility restrictions) is executed at the highest level, and that there be no room for compromise when the country is facing such high daily numbers.”
Both MAH and the Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (MyBHA) also called on the government to support businesses during this period.
Subramaniam added: “Enhancement to the wage subsidy programme is long overdue, and banks must play its part by giving automatic full moratorium at zero interest to assist the government in ensuring the survival of businesses. Banks had collectively declared billions of net profit for 2020 as well as the first quarter of 2021.”
MAH and myBHA also called on the national electricity provider, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, to extend support to businesses, with a minimum of 50 per cent discount on electricity charges.
“Businesses unable to cope with operating and payroll costs should be given leeway on statutory payments during the lockdown to protect jobs,” shared Subramaniam.
Requests made by MyBHA to the state and federal government include providing special exemption on tax assessment for 2020 and 2021 for all hotel premises as well as introducing special tax incentives from 2020 to 2022 for all registered and licensed hotel and tourism industry players, shared Sri Ganesh Michiel, national deputy president.
MyBHA had also requested for the establishment of a special division under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture or the Ministry of Finance to process all loan applications by hotel and tourism industry players, allowing them to bypass approval requirements by financial institutions.