KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — Though three-quarters of the year were under the COVID-19 spell, it had not been all doom and gloom for Malaysians in 2020.
Despite affecting our day to day life, especially when the public was called to stay home to flatten the curve, which saw shopping malls and restaurants closed, inter-district movements and overseas travel restricted, the disruptions have exposed some silver linings.
For one, there were far reaching changes in how we work, interact with colleagues and consume goods and services.
Zoom, Skype and similar tools enabled companies to switch to remote meetings and classes as well as seminars to be conducted online, causing online traffic to jump dramatically.
Like others around the world, Malaysians too quickly adapted to the standard operating procedures to eventually embrace the new norms in their daily life.
Apart from wearing a face mask and maintaining their physical distance, in efforts to reduce COVID-19 chain of transmission, the use of smartphones has now become a common practice to scan QR codes when entering any premises or to shop online.
In a way the pandemic has also encouraged faster adoption of contactless payment among the public, while the various restrictions and physical distancing protocols have forced businesses to step up efforts in adopting technology .
As such a silver lining in this is, the pandemic has actually motivated manufacturers to rethink IR4.0 adoption in a more cost-effective manner and will further accelerate IR4.0 implementation.
The implementation of the movement control order (MCO) also saw the government setting new rulings to religious activities in mosques and other houses of worship as well as in hosting festive celebration and wedding ceremonies.
Apart from the Chinese New Year celebration which is usually a merry festival, there was also no celebrative mood during the Aidiladha celebration in July, as inter-state travels and family visits were prohibited.
To add to the year’s doom and gloom, many were left jobless after several small and medium companies were forced to close down, while several others were retrenched when companies had to downsize to continue to operate.
On July 14, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) reported that the unemployment rate in Malaysia rose to 5.3 per cent in May, registering 826,100 unemployed persons.
However, concerned over the hardships faced by the people, the government among others announced the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash aid to relieve the burden of B40 and M40 Malaysians and the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) to safeguard the employment of people especially in small and medium enterprises.
The initiative introduced under the the PRIHATIN Economic Stimulus Package has two-pronged objectives, namely ensuring that employers are able to continue operating and at the same time, preventing employees from losing their jobs.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz on Nov 12 said, a total of RM12.16 billion in WSP had been approved as of Oct 30, benefiting more than 322,284 employers and 2.639 million employees.
Meanwhile for the BPN 2.0 as of Nov 3, RM4.5 billion had been channeled to over 9.86 million recipients, including seven million from the B40 category and 2.86 million from the M40 category, he said.
As the wellbeing of the people continues to be the government’s priority in Budget 2021, the RM3.7 billion allocation, to create employment opportunities largely in the form of ‘place and train’ programmes through ‘reskilling’ and ‘upskilling’ courses, is seen as a positive move.