PETALING JAYA: Tighter border controls have many businesses concerned over the impact on their operations, especially as health authorities have warned that there may be a spike in Covid-19 cases during the winter months.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said a survey showed that businesses were adopting a pessimistic outlook for the rest of 2020, with respondents concerned about supply chain disruptions.

However, governments and businesses were now better prepared to face a possible uptick in Covid-19 cases when winter set in compared to earlier this year, he said.

“In preparing for any foreseeable upswing in cases in the winter months, it would be natural for countries to tighten their borders, particularly in controlling people’s movement.

“We strongly believe that business and trade, including supporting services such as transport and logistics, must continue to operate to ensure no disruption to the supply of goods, which is critical for the survival of people and economies at large, ” he said when contacted.

He added that manufacturers were already working on a few strategies to minimise the pandemic’s impact on their operations and supply chains.

“This includes establishing business continuity plans which would include securing alternative sources of suppliers and evaluating near-shore options to shorten supply chains and increase proximity to suppliers.

“FMM has also taken the lead to establish the Asean Manufacturing Network, a platform for manufacturing-related organisations to communicate and collaborate on strategies to restructure regional production networks, ” he said.

He also said businesses were shifting towards more digital processes, such as remote working and virtual communication platforms.

SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said tighter border controls would affect business operations adversely.

“We understand that the government has to prepare for the possible spike during winter, but at the same time we have to take care of the economy, ” he said.

“If not, there will be loss of jobs, bankruptcy cases and social problems.”

Having stringent quarantine rules, he said, was enough to keep a tight rein on international arrivals without having to sacrifice economic growth.

“For instance, we should not use a normal tag to identify a person under quarantine. We could use those electronic devices to monitor where quarantined persons are.

“It would also be cheaper than having centralised quarantine centres. If we do it this way, then we can see businesses go on smoothly as usual, ” he said.

He also cited Taiwan’s mobile phone-tracking technology to ensure that people who were quarantined stay in their homes.

“It will be good if we can have a similar device or an app which tracks people’s locations the moment they enter the country.

“This will be good for business travellers who want to come to Malaysia. It will be better than a total blanket ban, ” he said.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob previously said citizens of countries with more than 150,000 Covid-19 cases would not be allowed to enter Malaysia effective Sept 7.

The Star has also reported that the National Association of Private Educational Institutions is concerned the entry ban will affect the economy significantly.

Its president Assoc Prof Elajsolan Mohan said it would “greatly affect” new student enrolment rates, especially as the majority of Malaysia’s international student population came from countries such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

He said the move would create a ripple effect on the sustainability of Malaysia’s colleges and universities, as well as the country’s economy.