Coronavirus: Malaysia backtracks on allowing barbers, optometrists to open during shutdown

Malaysia's movement control order has shut schools and non-essential businesses. PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - Malaysia has rescinded its earlier decision to allow hairdressers, beauty salons and optometrists to operate while its movement controls to curb the coronavirus outbreak are in force, said Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Monday (April 13).

He said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made the decision following advice from health experts and the authorities, and after listening to concerns raised by non-governmental organisations and the general public.

"We are aware the decision to allow hair salons and barbershops to operate has been an issue. The government listens to the people and in line with this, the Prime Minister has decided not to allow these businesses to operate throughout the MCO," said Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, referring to the movement control order.

"I hope this answers all questions and allays all concerns regarding the issue," he said.

The MCO has shut schools and non-essential businesses, largely confined people to their homes except to buy food, and closed Malaysia's borders to tourists since March 18.

Last Friday, the government announced that it would extend the controls to April 28, but would allow some additional businesses to reopen.

These businesses include traditional and complementary medicine, hardware and electrical shops, optometrists, manned laundrettes and hair salons.

Concerns were raised about the risks of infection, especially at service providers such as barbers and opticians, where people are in close proximity in enclosed spaces.

Meanwhile, the country's health chief, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, had on Saturday advised that the strict controls enforced since mid-March should be maintained and not eased, to contain the virus' spread.

Malaysia is one of the worst affected by the virus in South-east Asia, reporting 4,817 infections and 77 deaths as at Monday.

It had the highest number of confirmed cases in the region until Monday, when the Philippines reported a cumulative total of 4,932 cases and 315 deaths.

Mr Ismail Sabri also said that students at local universities and colleges must remain where they are,and would not be allowed to return home yet.

"We heard the views of the Health Ministry as well as the police on the matter and it has been decided that students should remain where they are for now.

"This is to ensure that whatever efforts that have been put in place to fight the spread of Covid-19 is successful. We don't want mass movement of people as new clusters may emerge," he said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus .

"I hope the public understands why this decision was made. It is to safeguard the interest and safety - not only the students - but also their families and their community, " he said.

Last week, Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad had said that the ministry would look into the best ways to send home students from institutions of higher learning.

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