All states in Malaysia except Sarawak under MCO from Friday as Covid-19 cases surge

The movement control order will be enforced on the states till Feb 4. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

KUALA LUMPUR - The whole of Malaysia, except Sarawak, is set to be placed under Covid-19 curbs, with six more states falling under the movement control order from Friday (Jan 22) following an increase in the number of coronavirus cases there.

The states are Kedah, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Terengganu and Perlis.

"Following advice from the Health Ministry, we have decided to enforce the MCO on these states until Feb 4," Senior Minister in charge of Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday (Jan 19).

The country recorded a total of 3,631 new cases on Tuesday, marking the sixth straight day of over 3,000 infections. There were 14 fatalities. The total number of infections now stands at 165,371, with a death toll of 619.

Another minister tested positive for the virus, amid accusations that Cabinet members have been flouting MCO rules.

National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique, from the ruling Umno party, was confirmed positive on Tuesday.

"Datuk Halimah will now undergo treatment and quarantine as instructed. Her condition will be monitored by health authorities in Johor Baru," the ministry said in a statement.

"While undergoing quarantine, the minister will continue to monitor the National Unity Ministry's affairs to ensure all activities go smoothly."

She is the fifth Cabinet minister to have tested positive for the virus.

A news report on Sunday highlighted a cross-country delegation led by a senior minister and other leaders from the ruling Perikatan Nasional at several events involving large gatherings.

"This has clearly violated... the ban on meetings of government and private agencies involving representatives of external agencies, as well as the ban on events involving many people in the areas under MCO," opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat youth chief Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir said in a statement.

He did not name names, but he was believed to be referring to a visit by Senior Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and his entourage from Selangor to Johor.

"This is not the first time that a minister has violated the standard operating procedures (SOP); there have been many examples since the beginning of the MCO when ministers seem to be immune from legal action. Action against the minister was only taken after the people made a fuss and their SOP violations were highlighted on social media," he added.

Umno MP Nazri Aziz also tested positive on Tuesday after being in contact with a Covid-19 patient who attended his press conference on Jan 12.

The government is also considering extending the closing time for restaurants to 10pm from 8pm, after #Sibodohkaudengarsini (Hey stupid listen here) became a top trending hashtag on Twitter this week.

Netizens who were unhappy with eateries closing too early during the MCO, which was implemented from Jan 13 in five states and the Federal Territories, used the hashtag to vent their frustrations.

The original tweet in Malay which started the debate was by Twitter user yarafaee_ who posted on Sunday: "Hey stupid, listen here. With business hours from 11am-8pm, the whole of Malaysia orders between that time only. Do you know that the Foodpanda/Grab apps always hangs because of this? People coming back from work have no time to cook because they have to go back to work the next morning."

A worker closes a restaurant during day two of the MCO 2.0 in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 14, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Her post, which was in response to another user who asked Malaysians not to complain about shorter hours, and just order their food a day before, was shared 17,500 times and liked by some 25,000 users.

The hashtag has since sparked some 64,000 tweets as at Tuesday.

"Never mess with Malaysians when it involves food and when they are hungry," tweeted user Aaron Denison.

Datuk Seri Ismail said the National Security Council and Health Ministry would be discussing the issue.

"The thing is, if we allow restaurants to open until 10pm, other sectors will also request to be allowed to operate until 10pm... Once we come to a decision, it will be announced," he said.

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