KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians thronged hypermarkets and restaurants over the weekend to stock up on supplies and dine with families and friends, ahead of new movement curbs widely expected to be announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (Jan 11) to tackle surging coronavirus cases.
Long queues were seen at supermarkets and hypermarkets, and items such as toilet rolls and vegetables were said to be out of stock at some supermarkets. Two Cabinet ministers issued statements on Sunday urging shoppers not to panic buy.
Lawyer Amna Karmila, 50, was among those who ate out.
"I wanted to take my 16-year-old son for a quick breakfast treat on Saturday before tighter rules kick in as he has been studying hard at home and school is supposed to reopen on Jan 20. I was shocked to see a really long queue of people outside the restaurant," she told The Straits Times.
Ms Irene Low, a 40-year-old who works in the retail industry, had a meal with her husband's aunt who had said that it was the "last chance to do so" before new restrictions kicked in.
Meanwhile, tutor Norviviana Hasan, 35, took her children to an indoor theme park in Kuala Lumpur.
Others also used the weekend to make short trips. A 26-year-old European expat working in communications, who only wanted to be known as Gaby, told The Straits Times: "I went to Genting Highlands this weekend to enjoy the nice view and the mountain. We didn't leave the hotel. We just wanted to see the horizon before being in a lockdown again."
Ms Nur Syawarina Mokhtar, a hotel receptionist in Port Dickson, one of the popular beachside destinations close to the capital Kuala Lumpur, said that the resort where she worked was 90 per cent occupied during the weekend, higher than the occupancy during the New Year weekend.
"This may be due to the expected announcement of tighter movement controls this week. (On Saturday) there were traffic jams the whole day in Port Dickson due to the large number of local tourists," she told The Straits Times.
Rumours of an impending lockdown have been circulating since the country's top health official, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah, called for targeted lockdowns last Wednesday, as the number of active coronavirus cases reached an all-time high, threatening to overwhelm Malaysia's hospitals.
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said that Tan Sri Muhyiddin would announce new measures on Monday to tackle the latest spike. But he added that the measures would not resemble the near full lockdown Malaysia had imposed for almost three months last year during the beginning of the pandemic.
Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi on Sunday urged Malaysians to avoid panic buying, assuring them that food supplies were adequate in the country.
Mr Ismail had also urged the same, saying that the government would provide adequate time for Malaysians to prepare for any new measures announced.
Malaysia's daily cases reached an all-time high of 3,027 last Thursday (Jan 7). It recorded 2,433 cases on Sunday.
The number of active cases now represents 95 per cent of the bed capacity set aside in public hospitals to deal with coronavirus patients.
Deaths from Covid-19 are also sharply rising in Malaysia, with 80 deaths recorded in the first 10 days of 2021. The country now has 135,992 total coronavirus cases recorded, with 551 deaths.