KUALA LUMPUR - Almost all Malaysian economic sectors will be reopened from Monday (May 4) but they must abide by strict conditions, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday (May 1), as the country relaxes its partial lockdown of more than six weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
"After holding a meeting (with relevant agencies), we are ready to open up the economy," he said in a televised address on May Day.
Malaysia first imposed the movement control order (MCO) on March 18.
"Beginning May 4, almost all economic sectors will be allowed to open with conditions. This is important as business and work are sources of income. If we are under MCO for too long, we will not get any income and this will have a bad impact on your finances," he added.
Economic sectors that involve large gatherings of people will still remain shut, he said.
The Prime Minister said South-east Asia's third biggest economy suffered RM2.4 billion (S$800 million) in losses daily during the MCO, with total losses currently estimated at RM63 billion. And another RM35 billion will have to be added to this should the MCO be extended.
“I realise you are all worried. I am worried too, and in some nations too, when the lockdown ended, the number of Covid-19 positive cases increased exponentially.
“We must find ways to balance between healing the nation’s economy and addressing Covid-19.
“Based on advice from the Ministry of Health and based on collected data, and the best practice guide stipulated by the World Health Organisation, the government has decided to reopen economic sectors cautiously, by implementing stringent health standard operating procedures, beginning May 4," he said.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin announced the cautious reopening after Malaysia on Thursday (April 30) reported 16 consecutive days of double-digit new coronavirus cases, a far cry from triple-digit new cases a day in March and early April.
Additionally, Malaysia has also recorded a high patient recovery rate of 69.5 per cent.
The Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Tuesday (April 28) said that Malaysia is now in a "recovery phase" of the outbreak as recovered patients have outnumbered new cases.
Said PM Muhyiddin: “God willing, we have enough manpower, bed in hospitals, quarantine centres, medicines, ventilators, personal protection equipment and labs should the infection rate increase again."
He added: "What needs to be done is to increase the ability of our public healthcare system, to face any possibility. So even though we have successfully controlled the spreading of Covid-19, let us not be ignorant and continue to be cautious".
The "conditional MCO" bars Malaysians from joining activities involving body contact such as football, rugby, night clubs, entertainment outlets, swimming at public pools, religious mass gatherings, exhibitions and Ramadan food bazaars.
However, sports activities like outdoor badminton, tennis, jogging, cycling, golf and running in small groups of not more than 10 are permitted.
Restaurants are also allowed to operate but maintaining physical distancing is required.
"It is advisable to take the body temperature of your customers before they are allowed in... Restaurants must also register the names of all customers, to enable contact tracing if someone tests positive for Covid-19," he said.
"Tables must be arranged at least two metres away from each other and it is important that there is safe, ample room for customers and waiters to pass through. 'Pak Salleh' can also put a notice saying that only one, two or three people are allowed to dine together depending on the size of the table," he added, using a character named 'Pak Salleh' who operates a restaurant.
The restaurant owner also needs to provide hand sanitiser and face masks to his workers, Mr Muhyiddin said.
Schools will remain closed and the mass annual exodus ahead of the Hari Raya Aidilftri exodus to hometowns called "balik kampung" will be barred.
Travel between Malaysia's 13 states is barred except for work purposes.
Mr Muhyiddin also suggested working couples to work alternate days to ensure that children are cared for. "There is no need to send them to daycare centres unless there is no other choice," he added.