KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will expand its conditional movement control order (CMCO) beginning Monday (Nov 9) to nine of its 13 states after a record high 1,755 new coronavirus infections were logged last Friday.
Schools and entertainment outlets will have to stay closed, while operating hours of eateries, sundry shops and convenience stores will be restricted to 6am to 10pm, among other restrictions.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Saturday that the National Security Council (NSC) agreed to impose the restrictions up to Dec 6 as “the increase in new Covid-19 infections has raised concern and anxiety among the public and we can no longer remain in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO).”
“Data that has been presented daily in special NSC meetings is sufficient to show that a stricter and bolder approach must be taken before conditions worsen,” he said.
Malaysia had relaxed curbs on economic and social activities in June under the RMCO after three months of restrictions had reduced daily infections to low double-digits.
But after new clusters in Sabah were exacerbated by the Sep 26 state polls, the country has nearly quadrupled its cumulative tally of Covid-19 cases.
Sabah was then put under the CMCO on Oct 13, before Selangor and federal capitals Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya - collectively known as the Klang Valley - joined the easternmost state the day after.
This bars inter-district travel except for work and emergency purposes.
Several districts in Negri Sembilan, the state just south of Selangor, were also added at the end of last month.
It was expected that the CMCO would be extended beyond the previous Nov 9 expiry after the government reminded Malaysians last Thursday that those celebrating Deepavali next weekend in the affected locations will not be able to travel outside their districts to meet relatives. Those outside will also not be able to visit loved ones inside the restricted areas.
But the expansion to all states save Sarawak in Borneo Island, Perlis and Kelantan in the north, as well as Pahang on the east coast of the peninsula, puts nearly the entire country back under restrictions that have crippled brick and mortar retail and hospitality.
Although most economic activity is allowed to continue, those which service customers in person have been hit by requirements to limit the number of patrons.
Domestic tourism had also staged a minor recovery during the RMCO, but the CMCO’s ban on inter-state travel has sent hoteliers reeling again.
Another 1,168 new coronavirus infections were reported yesterday, bringing the tally to nearly 40,000. Three new deaths also brought total fatalities to 282, more than half of which were in Sabah.
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri said on Saturday that the government will decide on Monday whether an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) - basically a total lockdown - would be implemented for the entire state of Sabah, which has contributed the lion’s share of cases in the past two months.
“We are very concerned... as you can see now, almost all of Sabah are now red zones,” he said.
Datuk Seri Ismail also explained that the nearly nationwide CMCO will enable authorities to implement targeted screening while movement within the community is reduced, thereby curbing the spread of the virus.
Several locations have been put under total lockdown since the MCO began on Mar 18, but this would be the first state-wide one should the government decide to do this tomorrow.