Lockdown expected to be extended as Covid-19 cases still high

By THE STAR | 11 June 2021

UPDATE: The Government has announced that the nationwide lockdown will be extended for another two weeks from June 15-28.

PETALING JAYA: The current two-week lockdown which is due to end on Monday has seen a reduction in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, but an extension appears inevitable due to the high number of deaths and the daily cases which has yet to dip below 4,000.

Even though ministers in charge of managing the Covid-19 pandemic state that they are not sure if the National Security Council would extend the lockdown, Senior Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed that the NSC will sit today as usual.

“We will sit, as we do every Friday evening. The agenda is usually the presentation from the Health Ministry but I am not sure what will be presented,” said Ismail, who is in charge of announcing the updates on the movement control order and decisions by the NSC.

Other ministers who are also on the NSC panel, declined to reveal whether the discussion about the extension of the lockdown is on the agenda.

“We will discuss collectively in the NSC on all related matters, ” said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

Other ministers merely said, “Wait for the decision by NSC.”

However, a source said that the issue of the lockdown extension would definitely be discussed as the current lockdown ends on June 14 and much deliberation is expected from various ministries, based on the presentation by the Health Ministry.

“When the government first decided on the lockdown, we knew it was unlikely we would be able to bring the pandemic to a controllable level in two weeks. This was also discussed then (when we decided on the first phase), but we decided to go for two weeks first.

“The NSC would now have to decide, based on facts and figures, if an extension is needed to save lives but we would also have to look at saving livelihoods, which is another worry in the current economic downturn, ” said the source.

NSC meetings are confidential and the only people who can speak on its decisions are the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Ismail Sabri and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Another source also pointed out that the government knew from the start that two weeks of any kind of lockdown would not be enough as approval operating letters from the Covid-19 Intelligence Management System under the one-stop centre manned by Miti does not carry an expiry date.

“It merely states that one can operate from June 1 under the current lockdown but it does not state anywhere that the lockdown ends on June 14. Therefore, it is likely that the same operating letters can continue to be used should there be an extension of the current lockdown, ” said the source.

Checks on the letters of operating approvals issued by Miti stated that those with the letters are “allowed to operate during the MCO which begins on June 1 and must observe the standard operating procedures set by the Malaysian government.”

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry stated that the country’s Rt – an indicator of how fast Covid-19 is spreading has reduced to below 1.0 to 0.96.

“The number of daily cases have also dropped and this has to do with the MCO which is currently in place from June 1 to June 14, ” said the Health Ministry on its Facebook.

On May 28, the Prime Minister announced that the country will go into a lockdown for 14 days from June 1, with only the essential economic and service sectors being allowed to operate.

At that time, the healthcare system was deemed to be breaking down as the number of Covid-19 cases had breached the 8,000 mark and new variants had emerged.

Muhyiddin then said that should this first phase of lockdown succeed in reducing the number of daily cases, the government would move on to the second phase of four weeks that allows some economic sectors to open provided no large gatherings are involved and physical distancing is practised.

“Phase Two of the lockdown is expected to last for four weeks after Phase One ends.

“After that, Phase Three would start with the implementation of the movement control order where no social activities are allowed, ” Muhyiddin had said, stating that all decisions to move from one phase to the next is subject to risk assessments by the Health Ministry.