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100 Days: Muhyiddin’s Unpopular But Brave MCO Decision That’s Now Seeing Results

Picture: BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA, June 8 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s unpopular but bold decision to take the bull by the horns in handling the COVID-19 pandemic has saved the day for Malaysia.

Assuming the post of Prime Minister at a most difficult time, he did not hesitate to impose the Movement Control Order (MCO) to keep people indoors and reduce transmission of the deadly virus.

It was clear from the start that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had his work cut out the moment he was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister on March 1, as COVID-19 cases in the country then were already showing signs of an upward swing.

With the country’s fate now in his hands, quick solutions were needed in the midst of a delicate and challenging period that put the seasoned politician’s wisdom to test as he was forced to take unprecedented measures guided by the advice of the Health Ministry (MOH) as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and as he faced his litmus test in his first 100 days as prime minister, Muhyiddin’s introduction of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 to contain the pandemic was touted by many as an unpopular but courageous move.

Introducing control of movement for Malaysia according to its own mould, Muhyiddin announced the enforcement of the MCO in four phases until May 3, followed by the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) from May 4 to June 9, and the latest, the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) from June 10 to Aug 31.

The RMCO is part of the government’s exit strategy for Malaysia as the country is now entering the recovery phase of COVID-19 following a declining trend of infections, while the country’s medical and public health capacity had reached a better and more convincing level.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, among the top-level frontliners battling the pandemic, described the MCO as a move that was enforced at a time when the nation was somewhat ill-equipped with no vaccine in sight or effective drugs to treat patients.

“The MOH discussed the COVID-19 situation with Tan Sri (Muhyiddin) and I was very impressed as he bravely decided to go ahead with the MCO at a time when many nations, barring China, were not ready to commit to restriction measures.

“… the MCO also meant that we were to enforce Act 342 (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988), a piece of legislation never used before in Malaysian history.

“We supported the move, it was the best solution and there is no right or wrong (when it comes to such matters) as no other countries had done it…as the saying goes, in unchartered territory, and this is courage,” he said in a special interview with Bernama at MOH here.

Recalling March 16 when Muhyiddin announced to the country the government’s decision to introduce the MCO, Dr Noor Hisham said many were sceptical then of the prime minister’s decision.

“Many were asking then if the MCO was the right decision. It was an unpopular move… but then again, this is not a question of popularity, this is about the country’s safety, and if this is to way to save the nation, we will go ahead with it (MCO).

“Fast forward, we have now seen how the MCO has managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve, while many neighbouring countries had also followed suit (restriction measures). This shows Malaysia is at the forefront in using a method that has never been used in other nations, especially within Asia,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

Muhyiddin’s steadfast belief in the capabilities of the public service workforce to combat COVID-19 is also highly admirable.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, the government’s sole objective then was to save the country from COVID-19 ruin, by using a “full government approach” powered by solid cooperation between all ministries and agencies.

“It was not only about Tan Sri’s (Muhyiddin) brave decisions, but more importantly, his belief and trust in public servants’ to implement the MCO in the battle against COVID-19,” Dr Noor Hisham said as he recalled his first meeting with Muhyiddin on the prime minister’s second day of official duty.

For the first time in Malaysian history, the MCO was implemented encompassing a comprehensive ban on public movements and gatherings throughout the country including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.

All Malaysians were also banned from travelling overseas and for those who are returning from overseas, they are required to undergo health screenings and voluntary quarantine for 14 days.

The MCO also saw an entry ban for all foreign tourists and visitors to Malaysia and the implementation of tighter border controls.

Malaysia’s global collaboration to accelerate work on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine was spearheaded by the prime minister himself after he joined several world leaders on April 24 at the launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) via a live teleconference where he offered Malaysia’s full support for the international effort.

“Malaysia is fully committed to being part of this time-bound effort and to take on the manufacturing of some of these tools and vaccines as they become available. And I urge leaders across the globe, donors, the private sector and the scientific community to support this important effort to win this war against COVID-19,” said Muhyiddin said in his remarks at the teleconference then.

Recognising the big role and contribution of the frontliners, especially the healthcare workers, Muhyiddin also took time off his busy schedule to hold a video conference to talk and lend an ear to the frontliners who have been working hard to fight COVID-19 and ensure the success of the MCO.

To weather the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, on March 27, Muhyiddin announced a RM250 billion PRIHATIN economic stimulus package with the objective of protecting the people, supporting businesses and strengthening the economy.

The package included a RM1 billion injection for the MOH to purchase equipment, hire medical experts and to provide special allowances between RM400-RM600 for healthcare and medical workers, and another RM200 for uniformed personnel.

Describing the stimulus package as a right decision, Dr Noor Hisham believes the measures taken will undoubtedly help the nation recover from the pandemic’s damaging effects, in the process finding the right balance to protect lives and livelihood.

“This initiative (PRIHATIN) was swift and timely, and now the government has implemented the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) to stimulate the economy and help the country recover from the pandemic’s effects.

“This is a win-win situation. These (PRIHATIN and CMCO) were wise decisions…we are now in the recovery stage where are able to contain the outbreak and at the same time reboot our economic sectors,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

The Muhyiddin-led government had also launched the COVID-19 Fund on March 11, as part of the government’s effort to help the people affected by the pandemic.

Last Friday, the prime minister also announced the short-term National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) which features 40 initiatives worth RM35 billion to empower the people, propel businesses and stimulate the economy affected by COVID-19.


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