PETALING JAYA • With cinemas, theatres and venues for live events in Malaysia set to reopen from July 1, key players in the small and medium industries and tourism sector are appealing to the government to further relax coronavirus restrictions.
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday said the government is allowing such activities to resume from July but they must be in enclosed spaces and the capacity must be limited to 250 people or fewer, depending on the size of the area.
"If they can only fit fewer than 250 people with 1m social distancing, then it has to be fewer than 250 people," Datuk Seri Ismail said at a press conference.
His announcement came as associations representing key players in the retail and tourism sectors said they have presented a proposal to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Economic Action Council for the government to take further steps in reopening the economy.
One of them, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents' president Tan Kok Liang, has asked the government to expand the list of countries that Malaysia plans to open its borders to. Malaysia has not allowed foreign tourists into the country since it first imposed a partial shutdown in mid-March.
He said Asean countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, contributed more than 75 per cent of total foreign arrivals in Malaysia.
"Domestic tourism is insufficient to support the tourism ecosystem," Datuk Tan said. "I think we can start slowly by allowing essential business travel, followed by medical tourism and perhaps education and lastly for leisure."
He said Malaysia was recognised as among the top five countries in the world to have succeeded in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, adding: "I believe that local tourism industry players are prepared to implement the necessary health and safety protocols for local and international tourists."
The president of the SME Association of Malaysia, Datuk Michael Kang, concurred, saying it is vital for businesses to travel to strike deals and attract investments.
"A lot of our business dealings are also in Vietnam and Thailand," he said. "And of course, our members have already set up their businesses in those countries."
Malaysia is reported to have begun discussions with six countries - Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea - over cross-border travel without restrictions.
Officials have said the Health Ministry is studying modalities to include Thailand and Vietnam in the "open border" policy.
A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Saturday said the Republic was prepared to work with Malaysia in addressing the needs of cross-border travellers. "Such bilateral arrangements would have to include mutually agreed public health protocols, to preserve public health and safety of citizens on both sides," the spokesman said.
"Both countries will require some time to work out the details on the gradual easing of border restrictions to ensure a stable recovery from the Covid-19 situation."
Meanwhile, the Malaysia Retail Chain Association has asked for more government support to help businesses battle economic headwinds as a consequence of the Covid-19 restrictions.
Its president, Mr Garry Chua, has proposed a tax break for foreign and local investments, soft loans from banks to boost spending and a subsidised campaign to buy local products.
The country has eased movement restrictions since May, when most businesses were allowed to reopen as the number of new coronavirus infections began falling.
Malaysia yesterday reported 15 news cases, bringing the total number of infections to 8,587. The death toll remained at 121.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK