Last Tuesday’s declaration of a state of emergency over the country until Aug 1 this year — unless the number of Covid-19 infection cases is brought under control before this date — was unexpected, to say the least.
It is the first nationwide emergency in more than 50 years and was deemed necessary by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, on the advice of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to lower the Covid-19 infection rate in the country, as the healthcare system has reached breaking point.
Although a second round of the Movement Control Order had just been announced the previous day for the Federal Territories, Johor, Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Sabah and Selangor, the PM said the government needed certain powers to ensure that the infection rate could be brought under control.
In his speech, he pointed out that the number of positive cases was “on the rise and [showed] no signs of decline in the near future”. He added that it was not a military coup, the civilian government would continue to function and there would be no curfews. However, parliament and the state legislative assemblies will not convene during the emergency.
Meanwhile, the King may declare any ordinance necessary for the purpose of curbing the spread of Covid-19.
To quell criticisms that the emergency was aimed at strengthening Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) hold on power, Muhyiddin said a general election would be held once the pandemic subsides.
With threats by some MPs (both allies and foes) to force a general election blunted, the PN government is secure at least till August. There are, therefore, no more excuses and distractions. It must now focus fully on containing the pandemic and roll out a vaccination programme effectively while ensuring that the economy recovers.
Failure is something that neither the country nor PN can afford.