JOHOR BARU • The Johor Baru district has been declared a red zone after the number of Covid-19 cases surpassed 40 in a span of 14 days.
The district includes Johor Baru city centre - located just after the Causeway - and the Iskandar Puteri township (formerly called Nusajaya), which is popular with Singaporean home buyers.
Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said there will be increased surveillance there as the number of infections is expected to rise.
"The Johor Baru district was declared a red zone on Thursday. Based on information, most of the cases reported involved the spread of the disease among family members and at workplaces.
"Because of this, the state health department has placed the institutions involved under a home surveillance order," Mr Vidyananthan said in a statement yesterday.
He added that there were 10 new cases on Thursday, including nine from existing clusters.
The declaration of the red zone is likely a precautionary measure because unlike other red zones in the country, the authorities have not imposed any restrictions on movements.
Commercial trucks carrying necessities like food products are still able to traverse between Malaysia and Singapore for now.
The federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and the states of Sabah and Selangor were also declared red zones earlier this month.
They were placed under a conditional movement control order (CMCO) starting from Oct 14 as the country battled a third wave of Covid-19 infections. Under the CMCO, social activities and cross-district travel are barred, and only two individuals are allowed to leave a residence at a time.
Originally imposed for two weeks, the CMCO in those areas has since been extended to Nov 7 as the number of cases remains high.
Mr Vidyananthan noted that there are currently three active clusters in Johor Baru - the Bayu, Kempas and Rinting clusters.
Although the declaration of a red zone may not have an impact on residents yet, it may jeopardise the further reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border at the Causeway and Second Link. This comes at a time when the authorities in Johor Baru are eager to revive businesses and repair an economy severely damaged by the closure of one of the world's busiest land crossings.
In July, both Malaysia and Singapore governments finalised agreements to implement two schemes: The reciprocal green lane for travellers on short-term visits, and the longer-term periodic commuting arrangement. These schemes were implemented on Aug 17.
Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad has repeatedly urged the Malaysian government to speed up the reopening of the border with Singapore as he said Johor's economy continues to contract, with the state expected to record its lowest growth in a decade by year end.
Malaysia has been recording triple-digit Covid-19 cases daily since late last month, with 799 new cases reported yesterday. There are a total of 30,889 cases so far.
Sabah has the highest number of infections at 466, followed by Selangor (150), Labuan (65) and Penang (35), said Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah. Three new deaths were recorded yesterday, bringing Malaysia's total to 249.
The latest wave of infections was caused by the two weeks of campaigning that preceded the Sept 26 Sabah state polls, which drew politicians and election workers from all over Malaysia to the country's easternmost state at a time when the state was struggling to contain a spike in Covid-19 cases.
These politicians and election workers have been blamed for carrying the virus back with them to Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
Separately, a primary school in Johor Baru has been told to shut for a week, starting from yesterday, after one of its pupils tested positive for Covid-19.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK