Malaysia relaxes Covid-19 rules to allow eateries to remain open until 6am during Ramadan

Eateries are typically required to close by midnight in Malaysia. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian government will allow eateries to remain open beyond midnight during Ramadan to allow those fasting to buy food for sahur (pre-dawn meal), said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Monday (April 12).

He warned at the same time that data collected by the Health Ministry showed a fourth wave of Covid-19 infection in Malaysia is possible.

Datuk Seri Ismail said the government had received many requests from food operators to be allowed to operate beyond the midnight closing time and the government has agreed to allow them to go on operating until 6am, or a time set by local municipal authorities, The Star daily quoted him as saying.

"This will allow people, especially those who are still single, to go out and buy food for sahur. Both takeaway and dine-ins are allowed," he said.

Eateries are typically required to close by midnight in Malaysia.

Muslims in Malaysia will begin the month-long, dawn-to-dusk fasting from Tuesday.

The minister said buka puasa (breaking of fast) functions and religious activities at mosques will also be allowed this Ramadan but under strict health protocols.

The government last year banned all mass events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Ismail said tables at premises hosting Ramadan buffets must be placed about 2m from each other, and in areas under the second-tier movement control order (MCO), called conditional MCO, "the number of guests allowed at a venue is only up to 50 per cent of the usual capacity".

For states under the third tier, more relaxed recovery MCO, the venues can be filled up to full capacity but with compulsory social distancing and mask wearing, The Star reported him as saying.

Mr Ismail said the evening prayer service at mosques and prayer halls are allowed under strict health protocols and with those attending bringing their own their own prayer mats.

State religious authorities can set their own rules, as religious matters come under the jurisdictions of state religious departments, he said.

The relaxations were announced although daily Covid-19 cases had mostly remained above 1,000 in the first four months of this year.

Daily cases had dropped to below 1,000 only once this year, to 941 on March 29.

The infections reached a daily peak of 5,728 cases on Jan 30, but have mostly trended above 1,000 but below 2,000 in the last seven weeks.

Meanwhile, Mr Ismail said Malaysia is at risk of a fourth wave of the coronavirus, Malay Mail online news reported.

He said the information was gathered from the Health Ministry's risk assessment over the past 14 days.

"Overall, the ministry has confirmed that Covid-19 cases in most states are currently not stable, with its R0 increasing past 1," he said in a news broadcast. The R0, pronounced R-nought, is a term indicating how contagious an infectious disease is.

Malaysia deemed its first wave of coronavirus infections as having occurred in January last year and involving tourists from China.

The second wave hit at the end of February and in early March last year, with a cluster centred around a mosque in Sri Petaling area at the edge of Kuala Lumpur, due to an international gathering of missionaries.

The third wave started around September last year following the Sabah state election that led to open mingling among politicians, campaign workers and Sabahans. The third wave hit Peninsular Malaysia when the politicians and campaign workers returned to their home states after the polls.

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