PUTRAJAYA: Several measures aimed at lessening the burden of people affected by the enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) as well as strengthening the nation’s healthcare capabilities during the Covid-19 crisis were announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today.
These included RM600 million in allocation for the Health Ministry, allowing Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors below 55 to withdraw RM500 per month from Account 2 for the next 12 months beginning April 1 and deferment of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) monthly loan repayments for six months.
Muhyiddin said the measures were part of an economic stimulus package and assistance for the people. The government, he said, will also announce additional measures next week.
“I am aware that many people lost their source of income during this time of crisis. Small traders were forced to close shop, taxi and grab drivers lost their prospective passengers and those who received salaries on daily basis are also affected.
“There are also employers suffering losses from the temporary closure of their manufacturing and businesses.
“That is why the Economic Action Council (EAC) which convened its second meeting today has agreed on the following measures to lessen the burden of affected people and groups during this difficult time,” Muhyiddin told reporters after chairing the EAC meeting.
On the move to allow EPF withdrawals of RM500 a month, Muhyiddin said the initiative - which would lead to an estimated withdrawals amounting to RM40 billion, is expected to benefit 12 million contributors.
Apart from the reduction in the contribution rate by four per cent announced previously, Muhyiddin said he hoped the initiative would provide additional monies for employees for them to buy daily necessities.
“I would like to advise those who will benefit from this initiative to use the additional monies wisely.
"Only buy items that are necessary during this difficult time. What is important is to ensure there is food on the table for your family,” he said.
He also announced that the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) monthly loan repayments that was previously deferred for three months in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, has now been deferred for a total six months until Sept 30.
“The deferment in PTPTN monthly loan repayments will take immediate effect today until Sept 30. This will benefit almost 1.5 million PTPTN borrowers,” said Muhyiddin.
On boosting the funding for the country’s healthcare facilities and medical frontliners in the fight against Covid-19, Muhyiddin said the additional RM500 million allocation would be used for procurement of additional equipment such as ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as equipment and facilities needed for intensive care unit (ICU) and Covid-19 screening laboratories.
“The government has approved emergency procurement procedures to hasten the procurement of these critical items,” he said.
The government, he said, has also set aside RM100 million for the ministry to make 2,000 new appointments especially nurses on contractual basis in the fight against Covid-19.
“The government is aware that there are many nurses and hospital staff who are tired from working day and night performing Covid-19 infection screening and providing treatment to those tested positive for the infection.
“I hope the new appointments could be made immediately to ensure hospitals in the country have sufficient number of workers to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
Muhyiddin also announced RM130 million in allocation to assist all state governments irrespective of their political affiliation to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at their respective states.
The allocation, he said, could be exhausted by the state governments to provide assistance to hawkers and small traders whose businesses were affected during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The allocation can also be used to provide assistance to Covid-19 patients and their families as well as to aid preparations for officers at the state level involved in allaying the crisis.
“The allocation will be distributed fairly to all states irrespective of which parties that formed the administration in the respective state.
“The crisis that we are facing at the moment is affecting all people regardless of their race, religion and political affiliation.
"Regardless of your political standing, we must work together in overcoming this crisis. Protecting and preserving the safety, health and lives of the people is a collective responsibility which transcend any political boundaries,” he said.