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Government must review thresholds of NRP, says FMM

FMM In The News: THE NEW STRAITS TIMES, KUALA LUMPUR, Friday, July 2, 2021 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) proposes that the government review the three thresholds of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) for faster transition to Phase 2 and opening up of more sectors.

Its president, Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said to minimise the damage to businesses and the economy, the government should look past the indefinite three key indicators as they may not be easy to achieve.  

However, one way that will ensure quicker results is for the government to expedite the vaccination process, through various platforms and by including the private sector in the vaccination.  

"We must speed up vaccination as it has proven to be pivotal in the reopening of economies in many other countries. FMM calls for the urgent review of the three thresholds of the NRP and other critical actions for a faster transition to Phase 2 and opening up of more sectors to minimise the damage to businesses and the economy".

Soh said its time the government shifted its focus from reducing cases to driving large-scale vaccination programmes, as that is the only way to return to pre-pandemic times.

"Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on June 30 was quoted in the media saying that the trend of declining Covid-19 cases since June 2021 was actually reversed, based on the Ministry of Health's latest projections for infections to climb in coming weeks.

"According to the current Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Removed (SEIR) projection, Malaysia's average cases have deviated from the curve plotted for an effective reproduction number (Rt) of 0.95 to the current Rt of 1.04. As a result, the average cases are going to hover around 6,000 cases until mid-July," he said.

In addition, Soh said the latest monthly edition of the Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking has Malaysia ranked at 51st position out of 53 economies globally.

He said it is evident from the study that the speed of vaccination is the key to economies moving back to normalisation which will then enable economies to relax restrictions and minimise the need for lockdowns.

"The manufacturing sector is already severely impacted by business closures of the non-essential sectors and the reduced capacity operations of essential sectors. If we still wait to reach the three thresholds before moving into the second phase, businesses may face irreversible consequences," he said.

Soh said it is obvious that Malaysia's low ranking is contributed by its lagging vaccination rollout, on-going lockdowns and closed borders.

He said the government should consider specific actions for areas under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO).

"Given the current trends and the latest projections on cases, we believe that waiting for cases to drop to below 4,000 and the uncertainty of achieving that milestone before the essential economic sector list is expanded and workforce capacity is increased will effectively kill the manufacturing industry.

"FMM suggests targeted lockdowns at the highest infection areas and those with lower cases should be allowed to operate without any distinction between essential and non-essential sectors," he said.

As for areas under EMCO including in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, Soh said, the government must consider a few things within this two weeks.

Among which are to prioritise mass testing of everyone including foreign workers and undocumented ones; Confirmed vaccination appointments for all under the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) and the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme (PIKAS) so Industries affected can restart operations after the EMCO period; companies with the Miti CIMS approval under the warm idle mode should be allowed to operate at 10 per cent capacity as it is very costly to switch the machinery and equipment off and on.

He said the government should accelerate and expedite the NIP, including the immunisation of the economic sectors via PIKAS, facilitating mobile clinics through mobile trucks and buses apart from the current Common Use PPVs and On-site PPVs and also allow a parallel vaccination programme by private hospitals and clinics and for the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) to accept WHO-approved vaccines without imposing additional requirements so that the private sector can purchase vaccines not used by the NIP and expedite the vaccination process for all.

"If the delivery of vaccine is a constraint, the current threshold of at least 10 percent to be fully vaccinated should be reviewed to 10 per cent with at least one vaccine dose and for companies that opt for private immunisation, they should be allowed to claim the cost from their HRD levy and be allowed for tax deduction where applicable.

"We also strongly support the need to fix a ceiling price for the private immunisation depending on the cost of the vaccine to avoid any profiteering by the parties involved," Soh said.

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