Eurocham Denies Putrajaya Will Implement Lockdown If COVID-19 Situation Does Not Improve

Speculation of a more stringent Movement Control Order (MCO) surfaced after a leaked letter went viral.

Cover image via TTGmice & Astro Awani

The EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) has denied that Putrayaja will implement a strict lockdown on 4 February if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike

Eurocham Malaysia's response comes after a letter containing details about its discussion with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was leaked last week, reported New Straits Times.

In the "very important and urgent" meeting with MITI on 22 January, the letter alleged that "the Ministry of Health (MOH) has 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 4 February 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," the letter read.

The letter also said out of 300 active COVID-19 clusters in the country, 99 of them are connected to manufacturing companies, adding that MOH believes the manufacturing sector is the source of infection.

"Construction (sector) was also mentioned, but since [it is] not under the purview of MITI, we did not discuss the sector in detail," the chamber wrote.

Malay Mail confirmed the authenticity of the letter after reaching out to a source in Eurocham Malaysia, while Free Malaysia Today confirmed with a source in MITI that the meeting had indeed taken place.

Following the leak of the letter, Eurocham Malaysia clarified that the informal meeting with MITI was merely meant to raise awareness about how businesses can play a role in flattening the COVID-19 curve

In a statement, the organisation denied that there were mentions about an immediate lockdown to be imposed after the current Movement Control Order (MCO) ends.

"Eurocham 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 4 February," the statement read.

Eurocham Malaysia also said MITI warned the chamber about the economic repercussions that could follow if businesses do not play an active role and expect the government to solve the pandemic independently.

As for the leaked letter, Eurocham Malaysia said it was meant for internal circulation and should have been kept confidential

"Please be informed that the communique was a confidential internal circular that was sent out to all our members to relay the essence of the informal discussion — and the commendable efforts of the Malaysian government — in tackling the spread of COVID-19," the statement read.

"Eurocham Malaysia has been tasked as the main contact point for the EU-Malaysia business community, and has been working very closely with the government, especially MITI, from the early stages of the pandemic (in 2020) to date."

Eurocham Malaysia chief executive officer Sven Schneider (left).

Image via Embassy of Ukraine In Malaysia

Despite that, there has been criticism thrown at Eurocham Malaysia chief executive officer Sven Schneider for leaking the letter as it has caused distress among the public.

Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST) professor Geoffrey Williams said he was "absolutely appalled" by the leak and demanded that Schneider resign.

"I have attended such meetings before and… it was completely inappropriate for him (Schneider) to breach the confidentiality of a private meeting," Williams told Free Malaysia Today, who is also former deputy chairman of Eurocham Malaysia.

"This (MCO extension) is for the minister or prime minister to announce."

"The problem is that this (leak) causes speculation and confusion which makes people anxious during a very sensitive period when we need calm."

Read the leaked letter here:

Image via China Press

On 21 January, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the MCO will be extended to 4 February:

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