PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s economic recovery momentum is expected to be dampened by a surge in the number of Covid-19 infections due to the Omicron wave with new cases breaching the 10,000 mark for a second straight day.
Yesterday, new Covid-19 cases stood at 11,034, an increase of 945 from 10,089 new cases reported for the preceding day. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has cautioned that daily cases will reach 15,000 soon.
Against this backdrop, Inter-Pacific Securities head of research, Victor Wan expects the surge will translate into a negative economic impact due to a knee-jerk reaction as the public shies away from in-person activities.
“The services sector will definitely see some impact from this,” he told SunBiz.
However, Wan expects the manufacturing sector to remain resilient as the government has stated that there will be no more lockdowns.
With regard to pre-emptive measures, he said there could be calls and recommendations from the government for businesses to reintroduce some previous measures, such as staggered shifts and work-from-home (WFH) protocol to control transmission should the situation escalate.
Indeed, later yesterday, at the Health Ministry’s daily Covid-19 briefing, Khairy urged businesses to reintroduce the WFH protocol and the implementation of staggered shifts wherever possible in order to reduce people mobility. He also encouraged employers to provide test kits and good face masks and called on businesses to look into the incentives provided by the government to improve their air ventilation systems.
In the face of the Omicron variant-led Covid-19 surge, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said he is comforted by the government’s assurance that it will not impose the movement control order (MCO) or total lockdown that was introduced in 2020 and 2021.
“MEF fully supports the government’s action to introduce stricter standard operating procedures (SOP) to better manage and lessen the infection of Omicron. Such efforts of the government should be supported by all stakeholders so as to enable the government to delicately balance the life and livelihood of the rakyat,” he said.
National Recovery Council’s industry expert, Datuk Michael Kang, opined that the Covid-19 surge will definitely hit Malaysia’s economic recovery as other countries, too, have experienced the Omicron wave.
“If we can follow the SOP strictly and conduct self-testing prior to travel or any physical visits, these precautions will definitely help with Malaysia’s economic recovery,” he said.
Kang does not believe the Omicron wave will trigger another MCO but the increase will still affect businesses.