KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — Authorities will increase enforcement of coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) in public areas and punish offenders regardless of their social status, Muhyiddin Yassin announced today.
The prime minister also claimed that authorities did not practice “double standards” in enforcing quarantine orders, even though Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali has yet to be charged in court for allegedly breaking mandatory home quarantine upon returning from Turkey last July.
Muhyiddin pointed out that seven ministers and six deputy ministers, besides him, were required to home quarantine. However, Muhyiddin was not seen wearing a quarantine wristband during his broadcast.
“Frontliners from enforcement agencies will be redeployed to public places to ensure compliance,” Muhyiddin told a national broadcast.
“If anyone breaks the law, compounds and other punishments will be imposed, regardless of one’s rank or position. I’m sorry if ‘Abah’ starts using the ‘rotan’.”
Muhyiddin today also stated that no strict nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) will be implemented, despite the country seeing a huge rise in daily Covid-19 cases since the start of the month, hitting a record high of 691 new infections today.
“As of today, we do not intend to implement a Movement Control Order nationwide or a total lockdown. If we implement this measure again, it can cause a huge impact that we fear may destroy the socio-economic system in the country.
“The government can implement a targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO) in areas that have registered a high number of Covid-19 cases. With this, social and economic activities in areas that are not affected can be continued by practicing tight SOPs with strict law enforcement.”
He also said that any decision to impose interstate travel bans or to close schools nationwide will only be decided at the National Security Council’s (NSC) special meeting.
The government is also considering limiting public gatherings and events, including wedding celebrations and large conferences, but will first get input from the Ministry of Health (MOH) before implementing these restrictions, as well as to add new SOPs if needed.
At the same time, the prime minister announced that the government will only close schools located in red zones, like Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Putatan, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna in Sabah.
He also assured people that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is working closely with MOH to ensure the safety and health of school communities.
“I know many parents are worried about their school-going children. So far, the government has decided to close down the schools situated in red zones.
“MOE will always monitor the Covid-19 situation in schools throughout the country. If there is any case involving the school community, MOE will work closely with MOH to overcome the issue.”
The prime minister also promised to provide prior notice with sufficient time period before implementing any movement restrictions so that no one is left stranded.
Muhyiddin also reminded all not to find fault with any party, amid the Covid-19 surge, claiming that certain parties were politicising problems faced by the country.
“Let’s ignore them. We must focus on efforts to handle this pandemic together.”
Many Malaysians have criticised politicians for the sharp rise in daily Covid-19 infections since the Sabah state election, particularly the government’s decision to mandate testing for Sabah arrivals at airport only from September 27 and to order home quarantine for these people pending their first test result, instead of a 14-day quarantine.
At least two politicians — Kampung Tunku assemblywoman Lim Yi Wei from Selangor and Maharani assemblywoman Nor Hayati Bachok from Johor — said they have tested positive for Covid-19 on their second test, despite testing negative on their earlier test upon returning from Sabah. Both women from DAP and Amanah respectively said they had voluntarily isolated themselves at home upon coming back from Sabah.
SOP Violations In Sabah Campaign Contributed To Covid-19 Rise
At the same time, Muhyiddin acknowledged that the non-compliance of SOPs in the Sabah election campaign had contributed to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the country, even as he refrained from naming any political party. Politicians across the divide were often seen in photographs of their Sabah campaign activities without face coverings and not practicing physical distancing.
Muhyiddin recalled campaigns that were conducted in congested spaces, which was a hurdle to practicing social distancing.
“When I went campaigning at many places, I saw less compliance of SOPs and social distancing. Although almost all wear face masks, many still sit close together in a rather crowded situation, so much so that I had to make my own SOP.
“I came by car and entered the stage without going through the crowd. When I started speaking, I reminded everyone who was present to obey SOP.”
Muhyiddin mentioned that he did not greet or touch anyone during his campaigning.
Eight politicians so far have publicly stated that they have contracted Covid-19 upon returning to the peninsula after the Sabah state election campaign, including Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad, who had attended events in various states upon returning to Kuala Lumpur on September 24 and was often depicted not wearing a face mask, and even engaging in physical contact with other people.
Muhyiddin today blamed the recent coronavirus surge on cases in detention centres in Sabah and Kedah, claiming that most of the Covid-19 infections in Sabah came from undocumented immigrants from a neighbouring country.
“Some of them are positive for Covid-19. When they’re detained in detention centres, they infect other detainees. This virus has also infected staff of detention centres, their family members, and the local community.”
The same, he said, happened in Kedah, where the coronavirus mostly spread among prisoners, besides the emergence of new clusters in the community. MOH reported that 57 per cent of the 691 new cases today came from the Tembok cluster in a prison in Kedah.
Muhyiddin mentioned today that the readiness of Malaysia’s health care system will help the country overcome Covid-19 transmission without having to close down economic activities.
“We are now better prepared than before in terms of experience and manpower. We know the behaviour of the virus better and we have enough facilities and equipment.
“So far, economic activities are being carried out smoothly. All of the government’s decisions should consider 15 million Malaysians who are going out to work. This is important in guaranteeing the survival of the people, as well as the economic stability of the country,” Muhyiddin added.