The worst fears of manufacturers and contractors, which is a strict lockdown à la Movement Control Order 1 (MCO 1), is now a reality. Starting from June 1 until June 14, many companies in the manufacturing, construction and services sectors will not be allowed to operate unless they are essential economic and services sectors.
The National Security Council, and not the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will come out with the list of companies in essential sectors.
This version of the MCO will go on for six weeks, depending on the infection rate. The companies cannot operate but the burden of paying the wages of their employees will weigh heavy on their shoulders.
The stricter MCO has come about because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases. One of the major contributing factors is the rising trend of workplace clusters.
Most of the workplace clusters — almost 50% — are from the manufacturing sector. Between April 1 and May 27, 287 workplace clusters were detected, involving 17,087 cases. Of these, 16,785 cases, involving 233 workplace clusters, are still active.
Are employers doing enough to test and isolate those infected with the virus? If they have to invest more on testing equipment, they should have done so.
Some employers did not get their act together and the whole economy is paying the price. The government, without many options, decided to shut down the real economy, which is essentially the manufacturing, construction and services sectors.
The first review of the lockdown will be after two weeks, with a further review after four weeks. The best that we can hope for is that the shutdown does not extend beyond six weeks.