Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday announced fresh nationwide movement restrictions to curb the soaring number of Covid-19 cases.
Five states - Melaka, Johor, Penang, Selangor and Sabah - and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya will re-enter the movement control order (MCO), where social gatherings are banned and dine-ins are not allowed in eateries. Only two people per household are allowed to go out and buy groceries, and they can travel only within a 10km radius from home.
"Our health system can no longer afford to handle 2,000 daily Covid-19 cases. It is at a breaking point," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said in a televised address.
"To break the Covid-19 chain, the government, with the advice of the Health Ministry, has decided to implement the movement control order (MCO) for a period of 14 days."
The new measures kick in tomorrow and will last till Jan 26.
The states of Pahang, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan will be placed under the less stringent conditional MCO, while Perlis and Sarawak will be placed under the recovery phase of the MCO.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the MCO is not an end in itself and that other steps, such as mass testing and better contact tracing, are needed to curb infections.
He also noted that the shutdown would adversely affect businesses and livelihoods. "The government must... announce a further RM500 million (S$164 million) in financial aid for the next two weeks as well as other aid such as wage subsidy programmes and assistance for businesses," he said in a statement issued yesterday.
Malaysia is experiencing a spike in cases after a third wave of infections began to sweep across the country from September, threatening to overwhelm the public hospitals, 15 of which Mr Muhyiddin said were already nearing capacity.
The country recorded 2,232 new cases and four new deaths yesterday. It now has a total of 138,224 Covid-19 cases and 555 deaths from the pandemic.
Health chief Noor Hisham Abdullah on Sunday said he was particularly worried about the high number of deaths in recent weeks. Since Jan 1, there have been 71 fatalities. In comparison, there were fewer than 100 fatalities recorded in the first nine months of last year. The number of daily cases, which has averaged about 2,000 in recent weeks, hit a record 3,027 last Thursday.
Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed became the second minister to test positive for the coronavirus last Saturday, just three months after de facto Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri was infected by the virus.
Datuk Seri Mustapa last Wednesday attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia meeting at which Mr Muhyiddin and several other Cabinet members were present.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Redzuan Yusof and Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who had sat next to Mr Mustapa at the meeting, have gone into quarantine. Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, also tested positive for the disease on Sunday.
Malaysia first imposed the MCO on March 18 last year, shutting down most businesses. The restrictions were eased on May 4 as the number of cases fell.
But a conditional MCO was later imposed in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya, as well as several areas, amid a resurgence in cases triggered by the Sabah state election in September.
Dos and don'ts of Malaysia's MCOs
Movement control order (MCO)
Covering Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Melaka, Johor and Sabah
•No travelling between states or districts
•Roadblocks will be set up to limit travel to a 10km radius from home
•People urged to stay home. Only two people per household are allowed to go out to buy groceries
•Social gatherings banned, including weddings, seminars and group sport
•Non-essential services staff to work from home
•Eateries may operate but only takeaways and food deliveries allowed
•Supermarkets, healthcare services and banks stay open
•Outdoor recreational activities allowed among people within same household
•Maximum of five people allowed in mosques and houses of worship
Covering Pahang, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan
•No travelling between states
•Social gatherings banned
•Religious activities allowed, provided there is adequate physical distancing
Covering Perlis and Sarawak
•No travelling between states
•Social gatherings allowed, subject to compliance with health protocols
•Religious activities allowed provided there is adequate physical distancing