PETALING JAYA: The country’s largest workers group has urged Putrajaya not to allow non-essential businesses such as launderettes, hardware and electrical shops to open for business during the movement control order (MCO), a day after the government’s U-turn on allowing salons, barbershops and optical shops to open during this period.

In a statement, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J Solomon said the group is against any move to open up non-essential businesses without the full endorsement of the health ministry.

“The danger of opening more shops and stores is simply far too great, given what we know about Covid-19.

“It is an extremely infectious respiratory disease that can be spread in a number of ways and even carried by people who display no symptoms at all.”

Solomon said the risk of being infected by Covid-19 was “very real” and must not be downplayed due to economic considerations.

Government leaders, he said, should heed the call by health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah for stricter enforcement of the MCO.

He also said it was “too simplistic” for some ministers to suggest that non-essential businesses be opened in green zones, as the virus could spread and turn these areas into orange and subsequently red zones.

Solomon said workers had been the hardest hit by the MCO, with some forced to take pay cuts or even being retrenched.

“However, MTUC cannot take a stand which adds further risk to the health of workers and the public with regard to the proposed opening up of certain non-essential businesses.

“We simply will not risk putting our members and their families in further jeopardy,” he said, adding that the proposal to open up barbershops was an example of poor discretion.

Solomon called on the government to explain how it plans to ensure the health and safety of workers and the public before tabling any proposal in reopening the economy, even on a limited scale.

“Only then will employers, workers and the public be able to make an informed decision about their health with regard to Covid-19.”

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