Phase 2 of the movement control order (MCO) has come into effect and with it, a shortened list of services deemed “essential”.
Thankfully, food and logistics which are confined to the provisions of essential services remain on the list. The other ones are water, energy, communications and Internet, security and defence, solid waste and public cleansing management and sewerage, healthcare and medical including a dietary supplement, banking and finance, and e-commerce.
In the gazette on March 18, a person may move from one place to another to purchase food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplement; to supply or deliver food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplement; to seek healthcare or medical services, among others.
No land travel is permitted, except for those transporting essential goods and food.
When the government announced during Phase 1 that only brick-and-mortar markets and supermarkets could operate and other open-air, pasar tani markets were to close, it threw off the finely tuned food chain.
The markets in buildings saw a surge of patrons and with it, crowds. Completely nullifying the original purpose of social distancing in the first place.
Perfectly good fresh produce had to be thrown away from wholesale markets because some vegetable sellers had no choice but to close down their business, albeit temporarily.
The effects were heartbreaking, to say the least. Things have become better as these wholesale traders and farmers have started embracing e-commerce.
So, so far, Phase 2 has gotten off to a smoother start though there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. This phase is supposed to end on April 14 but we don’t know if there will be Phase 3.
Though things seem bleak, the Malaysia Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi has assured that there will be no restrictions on supply chains, food marketing, and e-commerce throughout the MCO period.
He made it clear that industries, food included, should implement Covid-19 prevention steps while conducting business.
“Among the steps required to be taken include only asymptomatic personnel are permitted into the work premises, practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing, and other steps per the Health Ministry’s guidelines,” he said.
In the end, we really hope this MCO will help flatten the curve and we don’t have to continue with all this uncertainty.
It will be a steep climb trying to return to “business as usual” but so long as businesses are allowed to operate again, things shouldn’t be too bad.