KUCHING, April 10: The movement control order (MCO) should be extended by another two weeks, said Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party president Lina Soo.
She added that the extension of the MCO was the general consensus among health experts in the country.
“It is widely reported in the press that the federal government will announce on April 10 whether MCO, enforced since March 18, will be further extended to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“There is general consensus among health experts in the country that although the MCO has helped, where the number of cases have not grown exponentially, the overall situation has not improved, as the number of new cases has not gone down.
“Therefore the MCO should be extended for at least another two weeks or until new cases drop below 50.
“Sarawak Aspiration People’s Party supports the view of the health experts, and the directive of the Health Ministry if it were to extend the MCO. The curve must be flattened at all cost and Covid-19 must be eradicated,” she said.
Sarawak now has more than 300 positive cases with 12 reported deaths as of April 9. Kuching and Samarahan have more than 200 cases and are classified as a red zone.
To stem the community spread out of the red zone and to enhance the MCO, Soo proposed that the Sarawak government enforced a 2-week total lockdown in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian.
This would allow the Covid-19 spreaders in the red zone to be flushed out, while carrying out rigorous contact tracing, strengthened testing and sanitising the districts, she added.
“During the MCO, the dilemma now is between lives and livelihood. While the collective goal is to save lives, the peoples’ livelihood has impacted drastically. Lockdown and MCO come at great sacrifice, where the livelihood of the peoples are at stake, but without saving lives, there is no livelihood.
“With this twin crisis of pandemic and economic devastation, there can be a way out for Sarawak,” she continued.
Soo suggested the Sarawak government to create a financial instrument as an urgency measure in the quick introduction of an unconditional emergency basic income (EBI) to provide prompt and unbureaucratic financial relief to every Sarawakian above 18 years of age for six months.
This to enable the people and economy to get back on their feet, she said.
She described EBI as a bridge between lives and livelihoods, where Basic income is an unconditional monthly payment for every person above a specified age and guarantees a basic level of everyday security.
“EBI is unconditional and Sarawakians do not need to prove anything to receive the financial relief. The federal government has introduced three economic stimulus packages with all sorts of conditions, which are of no direct benefit to Sarawak with a largely rural population.
“Many reliefs only affect formal workers, leaving out informal workers such as the self-employed, contract workers, single parents, the homeless and the rural segment of population which has no access to electricity and internet.”
Soo explained that an EBI will deliver the money straight into the pockets of Sarawakians above 18, and generate spending power with multiplier effects, revitalising the market and economy.
“The system is easy, quick to introduce and requires minimum bureaucracy. The payment reaches more than half of Sarawak’s population of three million, for six months, will be met with an increase in demand for goods and services, which in turn will raise business opportunities and employment,” she continued.
In a crisis, a cash infusion in the form of EBI will keep people spending and people working. Making sure that everybody has a minimum amount to stay alive is the best way to stop production, income and the economy from collapsing, she said.
Soo believed an EBI will benefit every Sarawakian above the age of 18. At a payment of RM500 per month for six months, it would cost Sarawak RM5 billion.
“The Sarawak government will have to dip into its reserves if necessary, as many countries have done, to stop their economies from collapsing.” — DayakDaily