Coronavirus: Some Malaysian states opt to keep controls despite easing by central government

Selangor would first review how prepared the local authorities are to handle the resumption of business activities.
Selangor would first review how prepared the local authorities are to handle the resumption of business activities.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Seven of Malaysia's 13 states have decided to retain some controls to halt the spread of the coronavirus in their territory, after the central government said these rules would be eased nationwide from Monday (May 4).

Under the new rules announced on Friday, most businesses will be allowed to reopen, while people can return to work and begin dining at restaurants provided social distancing measures are implemented. Schools, however, will remain shut and large social gatherings are still prohibited.

The so-called conditional movement control order (MCO) eases the strict rules in force since March 18, under which people have been largely confined to their homes except to procure essential goods and services.

Northern state Kedah said it would not implement the new rules yet.

Kedah chief minister Mukhriz Mahathir said in a statement issued on Sunday that Kedah's special security committee would meet on Tuesday to study the requirements and guidelines announced by the federal government to ensure it was suitable for the state.

He said Kedah would not compromise on the safety and welfare of the people, and he urged Kedahans to stay at home, practise good hygiene and adopt social distancing measures.

The country's richest state Selangor, which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, said it would first review how prepared the local authorities are to handle the resumption of business activities. It will also restrict the number of businesses that can begin operating from Monday.

Restaurants will not be allowed to operate dine-in services, said Selangor Chief Minister Amirudin Shari in a statement on Sunday.

Meanwhile the Negri Sembilan government has decided against allowing food and beverage outlets to open for dine-in customers for now, said Menteri Besar Aminuddin Harun.

The state government has also decided not to allow any sports or social activities to resume, said Datuk Seri Aminuddin.

He said although the state agreed with the federal government on opening up certain sectors of the economy, it decided that some sectors should remain closed after getting public feedback.

 
 

"Some restaurant operators have also voiced their concerns about allowing dine-ins for now. So we will continue with the earlier arrangement of only allowing takeaways, and this includes food trucks," he told reporters on Sunday.

The East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak said they would not be adopting the new rules for now.

Sabah Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal said the state would maintain the existing restrictions, which were originally set to be in force until May 12.

"Our decision to maintain the MCO is to check on the spread of Covid-19 virus in the state and protect the people," he said in a brief statement Sunday.

He urged all members of the public to continue to observe the MCO rules currently enforced in the state.

Sarawak said it would not implement the conditional MCO until it had studied its implications for the state. Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said the state government would evaluate its approach according to the needs of the state.

Penang said it would implement the conditional MCO "in three phases" starting May 4. Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said on Sunday that although it is necessary to restart the economy in the state, it cannot take the risk to completely loosen the MCO.

 
 
 

Pahang too said it would be maintaining the status quo on movement controls for now. Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said although the state government supported the Prime Minister's announcement on the conditional MCO, the details still had to be worked out specifically for Pahang.

"The Pahang government has to study and fine-tune it to match the current state of the Covid-19 outbreak in Pahang. This will be discussed further in the state security working committee's weekly meeting on May 8," he said in a statement Sunday.

As of Sunday, over 400,000 people have signed a petition urging the Malaysian government to continue with its existing movement restrictions over concerns that the country was reopening too quickly in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Malaysia reported 122 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, taking the cumulative total to 6,298 infections. 

The health ministry also reported two new deaths, raising the total number of fatalities from the outbreak to 105.