Malaysia extends movement curbs after surge in Covid-19 cases

Restrictions imposed on nine of its 13 states until Dec 6; Sabah may face total lockdown

Hindus in the Malaysian state of Penang shopping for Deepavali yesterday. This year, the festival falls on Nov 14, with the country in the grip of a conditional movement control order that will curtail celebrations somewhat. PHOTO: BERNAMA
Hindus in the Malaysian state of Penang shopping for Deepavali yesterday. This year, the festival falls on Nov 14, with the country in the grip of a conditional movement control order that will curtail celebrations somewhat. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysia will expand its conditional movement control order (CMCO) beginning tomorrow 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 yesterday that the National Security Council 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)".

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 Sept 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 Negeri 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 on Borneo Island, Perlis and Kelantan in the north, and 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 that 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 brought total fatalities to 282, more than half of which were in Sabah.

  • CMCO: What's allowed, what's not

  • 1 Inter-district and inter-state travel is not allowed under the conditional movement control order (CMCO), with the exception of emergency cases. Those who have to travel to another district for work are required to produce authorisation letters obtained from their employers.

    2 Schools in affected areas are to remain closed. They include kindergartens, primary, secondary, private schools and teacher education institutes registered under the ministry.

    3 Restaurants, shops, food stalls, roadside stalls, food courts, hawker centres, sundry shops and convenience stores are allowed to operate only from 6am to 10pm daily.

    4 Only four customers to a table are allowed when dining-in at restaurants.

    5 Only two people per household are allowed to leave home at any one time to buy essentials.

    6 Individual, non-contact and outdoor sports as well as e-sports with not more than 10 participants are allowed. But swimming, contact sports and competitions are not allowed. Entertainment outlets are also not allowed to operate.

    Nadirah H. Rodzi

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday that the government will decide tomorrow whether an enhanced movement control order - 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 the 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 March 18, but this would be the first statewide one should the government decide to do this tomorrow.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 08, 2020, with the headline Malaysia extends movement curbs after surge in Covid-19 cases. Subscribe