Coronavirus South-east Asia

Malaysia steps up checks to avoid post-festive surge

Rules limit interstate travel, visitations and sacrificial rites for tomorrow's Hari Raya Haji

A woman receiving her Covid-19 vaccine jab as part of a vaccination outreach programme in Dengkil town, outside Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. Malaysia has administered over 14 million vaccine doses so far, with nearly 20 per cent of adults fully immunised
A woman receiving her Covid-19 vaccine jab as part of a vaccination outreach programme in Dengkil town, outside Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. Malaysia has administered over 14 million vaccine doses so far, with nearly 20 per cent of adults fully immunised, making the country's vaccination rate one of the world's fastest. But despite the number of new Covid-19 cases dipping to 10,710 yesterday, deaths rose to a record 153.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Malaysia is stepping up enforcement ahead of Hari Raya Haji tomorrow to avoid a flare-up in Covid-19 clusters similar to those linked to Hari Raya Aidilfitri in May that sparked a surge in cases, which now average over 10,000 daily.

With higher traffic seen on highways since last Friday, the police have vowed stricter checks at roadblocks. They will also reject government exemption letters that normally allow individuals from selected sectors to cross state lines for work.

"To prevent irresponsible parties from abusing the permits, all roadblocks at state borders have been ordered not to accept them... for interstate travel," said police chief Acryl Sani Abdullah on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday that "hundreds of thousands travelled interstate with various reasons, including using interstate letters meant for work" during Aidilfitri, which resulted in 36 clusters.

"There probably are also those who use their 'expertise' to evade the police by travelling through plantation roads and so on, but you can't deceive Covid-19," he said, adding that 4,839 vehicles were turned back last Friday alone.

Sacrificial rites on Hari Raya Haji will be limited to places of worship and pre-approved sites, and traditional feasts after the rites are banned. Congregational prayers will have to adhere to rules set by each state's religious authority. Celebrations and visits to homes will also be banned.

Such precautions are also seen in Indonesia where people have been urged not to travel to their home towns. In Singapore, the Muslim community has been reminded to abide by safety measures to keep local transmission numbers low.

In Malaysia, the new rules came hours after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's announcement on Saturday that the government will decide this week on the relaxation of restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Over 14 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, with nearly 20 per cent of adults fully immunised, as Malaysia's vaccination rate has accelerated to become one of the world's fastest.

The Malaysian Premier said yesterday that the government intends to administer even more jabs daily, from an average of over 400,000 to half a million, so that all adults will be fully inoculated by the end of October.

"With the discovery of new Covid-19 variants that are more aggressive and the surge in positive cases, the vaccination programme target has been accelerated," he said, adding that 76.1 million doses have been procured.

Despite the number of infections dipping to 10,710 yesterday, deaths rose to a new record of 153, bringing their respective totals to 916,561 and 7,019.

With the Klang Valley accounting for the biggest share of cases, the government has embarked on Operation Surge Capacity, which aims to ensure that every adult in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor receives at least one dose by Aug 1.

This would allow walk-ins for those aged 60 and above, instead of them having to pre-register and wait for appointments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia steps up checks to avoid post-festive surge'. Subscribe