Coronavirus: Online poll shows most Malaysians support extension of movement curbs

Malaysian army officers set up a barb wire fence in Kuala Lumpur on April 7, 2020.
Malaysian army officers set up a barb wire fence in Kuala Lumpur on April 7, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's 28-day movement curbs that have kept most of its 32 million population at home will end after next Tuesday (April 14) with some expecting its extension, as the coronavirus infections are still spreading.

An ongoing online poll conducted by a government agency, the National Security Council, to gauge whether the Movement Control Order (MCO) should be extended found 88 per cent of 386,000 people who responded by the middle of Thursday afternoon want it to be extended.

Medical group Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, meanwhile, has suggested separately that the curbs should be extended beyond a month, fearing the mass exodus of people to their hometowns ahead of the May 24 Hari Raya Aidilfitri and two other major festivals celebrated by the natives of Sarawak and Sabah.

The National Security Council, known by its Malay initials MKN, conducted the poll on its official Telegram channel, starting after midnight on Thursday - the 23rd day of the movement curbs.

The MKN's question was: "Do you think it is reasonable for the MCO to be extended beyond April 14, 2020?", with Yes or No buttons.

The government will on Friday announce whether there will be an extension of the curbs.

The MCO was initially to be in place for 14 days between March 18 and March 31.

But it was later extended by 14 more days to April 14.

Malaysia on Thursday reported 109 new Covid-19 cases to bring the total number to 4,228, with two more deaths to bring total fatalities to 67.

Bernama news agency said the government has also recorded 69 sporadic cases where the source of infection cannot be traced.

Meanwhile, the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia said the MCO must should be extended beyond the Hari Raya Aidilfitri season.

 
 
 

"For public health reasons, the ban on non-essential interstate travel must continue leading up to and beyond the Aidilfitri period," it said in a statement on Thursday, according to a report in The Star online news.

Muslims will begin fasting on April 24, and Hari Raya will be celebrated on May 24.

The academy noted that Hari Gawai and the Harvest Festival will be celebrated soon after this period

Hari Gawai is an annual festival celebrated by the Dayak people of Sarawak on May 31.

The Harvest Festival, or Pesta Ka'amatan, is celebrated in Sabah on May 30 and 31.

These three festivals will lead to "balik kampung" - or mass exodus of city folk to their villages and hometowns.

"The risk of spreading the virus, particularly to the elderly, in the case of a 'balik kampung' exodus, is very real.

 
 

"Risks associated with crowding at R&R (rest and recreation) stations (along highways), and hence the failure of social distancing by travellers during this exodus and their subsequent return to urban areas, will also need to be taken into consideration," it said.

The academy said: "The war against Covid-19 is far from over. Many sacrifices have and will continue to be made this year."