Muhyiddin should convene an emergency meeting of the National Security Council and the Cabinet to modify his proposal yesterday on early EPF withdrawals and instead to provide cash support from government reserves

The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposal to allow EPF contributors to withdraw up to RM500 a month from Account 2 for the next 12 months beginning April 1 is a disappointment as it is not a well thought-out proposal to help workers affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

This is why it has received brickbats all around.

The Prime Minister should convene an emergency meeting of the National Security Council and the Cabinet to modify his proposal on early EPF withdrawals to help the workers in the Covid 19 crisis, and instead to announce in a live telecast later today of government provision of cash support from government reserves for Malaysians affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

I agree with PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that the federal government should utilise the nation’s reserves or increase contribution from state oil and gas Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) rather than Employees’ Provident Fund savings to help those who are financially incapacitated by Covid-19 crisis.

The government should give serious consideration to the proposal by the Pakatan Harapan secretariat for emergency funds to be dispersed to Cost of Living Aid (BSH), starting with payments of RM1,000 for March and April each.

The government should dig into its reserves to fund this proposal, which would cost about RM8.2 million.

The Malaysian Trade Unions Council (MTUC) has understandably lambasted Muhyiddin’s proposal to allow EPF contributors to withdraw up to RM500 a month from Account 2 for the next 12 months beginning April 1 as a regressive move which would deplete the long-term savings of the EPF contributors.

All right-thinking Malaysians would agree with MTUC secretary-general J Solomon who complained that at a time when MTUC is asking the government to inject funds to help the millions of workers in the country who are directly affected by the devastation of Covid-19 pandemic, the government is instead resorting to asking the workers to take money out of their provident funds meant for old-age savings and spend it.

This is another false step by Muhyiddin, his Ministers and top advisers and they should go back to the drawing board to draw up financial packages which can really assist the workers and designed to save lives, livelihoods and jobs.

It is urgent and imperative that the government should act with professionalism, competence and agility to come out with proper and appropriate proposals to help all sectors in Malaysia affected by the Covid-19 crisis as the record increase of 212 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours - the highest daily increase since the start of the outbreak in late January - does not indicate that we have reached the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak or that the Movement Control Order (MCO) will not be extended come March 31.

Many Malaysians are still not fully aware of the rationale and purpose of the MCO and why there should be social distancing. I hope the following two examples will help to ensure more Malaysians stay at home during the MCO.

Firstly, there is a video on the social media on Patient 31 of South Korea, a 35-year-old woman who felt “completely fine” but who was responsible for infecting some 1,200 Covid-19 cases out of a total of 8,961 confirmed cases in South Korea – highlighting the importance of social distancing to break the chain of infection of the Covid-19 virus.

Secondly, Greece yesterday imposed a restriction on movement with only a few exceptions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Greece is far behind Malaysia in terms of Covid-19 infections – recording 624 cases, 15 deaths and increase of 94 cases on in the last 24 hours on Sunday as compared to Malaysia’s total of 1,306 cases, 10 deaths and daily increase of 123 cases.

This is what the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said when announcing the Greek lockdown in a live telecast on Sunday:

"In Italy, one person dies every two minutes and the situation is getting worse throughout the world. It is my duty not to allow our country to go through such a trial."

Referring to the tragic choices of doctors running out of hospital beds in Italy, he said: "We must not get to the point where we decide who will live and who will die. I only choose one thing: the lives and health of Greeks."

Worldwide, the news on Clovid-19 pandemic remains grim, with United Kingdom today joining others in locking down the country.

Italy reported 602 new deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total to 6,077 with the tally of cases in the country, a major hotspot, rising to 63,928.

The silver lining is that the reported deaths in Italy dropped for a second day in a row, after on Saturday reaching an all-time high since the outbreak began of 793.

With a total of 63,928 cases, Italy is catching up with China’s total of 81,093 confirmed Covid-19 cases – which is very serious considering that Italy has a much smaller population of some 60 million as compared to China’s 1.4 billion population.

In the UK, the number of those who have died from the disease the virus causes, COVID-19, increased by 54, bringing the toll in the country to 335 among 6,650 cases.

In the US, the number of cases surged past 35,000, with a death toll of 495, according to John Hopkins University data.

More than 15,400 people have died from COVID-19 globally. An estimated 100,000 of the 362,000 people who have been diagnosed with the disease across the world have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned "the pandemic is accelerating" with it taking 67 days for cases to reach the 100,000 mark globally, 11 days for cases to reach 200,000 and just four days for cases to reach 300,000.

Every Malaysian must decide that he or she can make a difference in the global war against Covid-19 and resolve that Malaysia will not go the way of Italy, United States, Spain, France, Iran or Germany, but will win the war against Covid-19 by flattening the curves of Covid-19 infections and deaths with everybody staying at home to break the chain of infection of Covid-19.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri