Coronavirus: Malaysia

Malaysia to place six Selangor districts under first-tier MCO

No widespread lockdowns but Hari Raya 'balik kampung' exodus banned for 2nd year

Pedestrians in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, yesterday. Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have breached the 3,000 mark in five of the last seven days, and the government is placing six districts in the densely populated Selangor state under the first-tier movemen
Pedestrians in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, yesterday. Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have breached the 3,000 mark in five of the last seven days, and the government is placing six districts in the densely populated Selangor state under the first-tier movement curbs for 12 days from tomorrow. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Malaysia will place six out of nine districts in the densely populated Selangor state under the first-tier movement curbs for 12 days from tomorrow, with two Cabinet ministers indicating that there will not be widespread lockdowns despite surging Covid-19 figures.

The government is banning the annual "balik kampung" Hari Raya exodus for the second year, but has relaxed home visits for those living in the same state and federal territory, except for people in the six Selangor districts.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob denied at a news conference yesterday that there would be a widespread lockdown as speculated on Monday. He said the districts facing the full movement control order (MCO) are Petaling, Hulu Langat, Gombak, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

Inter-district travel is banned for these districts in Selangor, adding to the inter-state travel ban for the whole of Malaysia.

But drawing lessons from its last two MCOs - in March last year and January-February this year - which caused job losses and hit the economy badly, the government will allow business activities in these six districts to continue, although with shorter hours.

The government's decision comes as Covid-19 cases surged above 2,000 a day from the middle of last month.

Cases have breached the 3,000 mark in five of the last seven days, amid warnings that the country's healthcare system is under strain. Active cases have more than doubled in the past month, with a record number of patients admitted to intensive care units.

There were 3,120 new cases reported yesterday.

At a separate news conference, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government is rolling out a data-driven identification system to quickly pinpoint trouble spots.

Called Hotspots Identification for Dynamic Engagement (Hide), the system will list premises that are designated as hot spots to warn the public to avoid them and for the owners of such premises to take remedial action.

"At the moment, some of the large hot spots in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are shopping malls, (food and beverage) outlets and bazaars.

"By identifying these hot spots, owners of premises can take early intervention steps, such as testing their workers, strengthening the gatekeeping process and also tightening crowd control," he said.

Mr Khairy, who is the Coordinating Minister for Malaysia's immunisation programme, said that with the use of Hide, the government hopes to avert instituting a third round of lockdowns. "This is a pre-emptive measure to prevent clusters from emerging."

He said that as at Monday, there were 1,660 hot spots identified across the country - ranging from shopping malls to supermarkets and food bazaars.

With Muslims celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Thursday next week, Datuk Seri Ismail has laid out a few ground rules.

The balik kampung (return to hometowns) mass travel remains banned to curb the spread of infections from big cities to rural areas.

For families and friends living in the same state, up to 20 people can make Hari Raya visits. However, those in the six Selangor MCO districts cannot leave their areas or receive out-of-state visitors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia to place six Selangor districts under first-tier MCO'. Subscribe