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Eurocham denies govt warned of possible lockdown

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 24): The European Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) Malaysia has denied that the government had warned that it would impose a lockdown immediately after Feb 4.

In a statement tonight, the chamber said it had an informal meeting with the Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) — which was summarised in an internal circular to its members dated Jan 22 that was sighted by theedgemarkets.com — where the "demanding situation" of worker accomodations was brought up numerous times as a key condition to breaking the chain of infections.

"The essence of the informal discussion with MITI was aimed to raise awareness about how the business community can play a role in flattening the Covid-19 curve — and the economic repercussions that could follow if we do not play a very active role, while expecting the government to exhaust its efforts independently," it said.

"In this context, the demanding situation of worker accommodations has been raised many times and was mentioned in our internal circular, as crucial contribution in the effort of breaking the chain. Furthermore, Eurocham Malaysia wishes to clarify that while MITI underscored the heightened sense of urgency that currently prevails, given the rising number of cases, there was no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4, 2021, and therefore, we seek for people to remain focused on the bigger picture — in doing their part to ensure that another lockdown is avoided instead," it added.

Eurocham Malaysia's chairman Oliver Roche praised the government's efforts in managing the pandemic since last year, as "commendable".

"There have been many reports in the media of clusters on infections associated with various factories, construction sites and other places of work. It is imperative that we urge the business community to take this matter seriously and more importantly do their part, by investing in resources assist in implementing strict SOPs [standard operating procedures] — to avoid another full MCO," he said.

Meanwhile, Eurocham Malaysia's chief executive officer Sven Schneider urged everyone to focus on their capacity to contribute to ending the pandemic.

"While we are focused on the pandemic and its negative impacts to the economy, it is also vital to take a step back and look at how much the Malaysian government has done for its Rakyat, and note that everyone, from mass public to the business community, has a responsibility to do what we can to flatten the curve," he added.

According to the circular, MITI's secretary-general Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali — who chaired the "very important and urgent meeting" on Jan 22 — said the Ministry of Health had "made a clear stand on the matter of a complete shutdown of the economy".

"Should the infection rate not decrease, the Malaysian government will announce a shutdown/strict lockdown immediately after Feb 4, 2021. This is the current situation we are facing and MITI is appealing to all companies, foreign and local, to join the effort of reducing infections, breaking the chain, to keep the economy open for business," it said.

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