PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As cinemas, theatres and live events in Malaysia are set to reopen from July 1, key players in the small and medium industries and tourism sector in the country are appealing to the government to further relax Covid-19 restrictions.
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Senior Minister (Security), said on Monday (June 22) that the government has allowed such activities to reopen from July but they must be held 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," he said at a press conference.
He made the announcement 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 (EAC) for the government to take further steps in reopening the country's economy, The Star reported.
One of them, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang has asked the government to expand the list of countries that Malaysia plans to open its borders to.
He said that Asean countries including Vietnam and Thailand contributed to more than 75 per cent of the total foreign arrivals to Malaysia.
"Domestic tourism is insufficient to support the tourism ecosystem," Mr Tan said.
"I think we can start slowly by allowing essential business travel, followed by medical tourism and perhaps education and lastly for leisure."
As Malaysia was recognised as among the top five countries in the world to have succeeded in controlling the spread of Covid-19, "this will be a good marketing point for us", he said.
"I believe that local tourism industry players were prepared to implement the necessary health and safety protocols for local and international tourists."
President of the SME Association of Malaysia Michael Kang concurred.
"For businesses, it is vital for us to travel to get new business deals, investments and acquire expertise.
"A lot of our business dealings are also in Vietnam and Thailand," Mr Kang said.
"And of course, our members have already set up their businesses in those countries."
Malaysia was reported to have begun discussions with six green zone countries - Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea - for cross-border travel without restrictions.
Officials said the Health Ministry was studying modalities to include Thailand and Vietnam in the "open border" policy.
A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last Saturday that Singapore 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 ministry's 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 Bumiputera Retailers Organisation, whose president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin met the Prime Minister, recommended measures that would give people confidence to go out.
Others like the Malaysia Retail Chain Association pleaded for more government support to help businesses battle economic headwinds as a consequence of the Covid-19 restrictions.
Its president Garry Chua also proposed a tax break for foreign and local investments, soft loans by banks to boost spending and a subsidised campaign to buy local products.