Coronavirus: Malaysia to reimpose lockdown if new cases cross 100 a day

The cumulative tally of infections in the country stands at 8,884. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian government will reimpose its countrywide lockdown should the number of new Covid-19 cases climb to more than 100 a day, the minister in charge of managing the coronavirus outbreak said yesterday.

The South-east Asian country is now under what it calls the recovery movement control order (MCO), with most businesses allowed to operate if they follow health measures such as recording the temperatures of those entering malls, offices and shops, and recording the visits with contact tracing apps.

But daily new cases have been spiking again in the past week.

"If it reaches three digits, we have no choice but to reintroduce the MCO and we will see," Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters in the Kelantan capital Kota Baru, as quoted by Bernama news agency.

Malaysia reported 13 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, compared with 23 last Saturday, 21 last Friday and nine last Thursday.

The Health Ministry had announced just over three weeks ago, on July 1, that the country had recorded zero cases of local transmission for the first time since March, and had only one new case that was imported.

"I understand that if the MCO is enforced again, it will make things difficult for all parties, including those of us who want to work and so on but this measure must be taken," Datuk Seri Ismail said, as quoted by the national news agency.

According to compiled data on Malaysiakini, Malaysia last reported more than 100 cases a day on June 4, when 277 cases were reported.

The cumulative tally of infections in the country stands at 8,884. There were no new fatalities, with the death toll remaining at 123.

Mr Ismail said one main reason for the resurgence of cases is the public's complacency.

"This is because the public has forgotten what needs to be done when we eased the standard operating procedures... the number of cases begins to rise again," he said, as quoted by Bernama.

Malaysia implemented the MCO on March 18, locking down much of the country for more than three months as it tried to reduce the number of new daily cases, especially after a super-spreader event involving a mass gathering by the Tabligh missionary group at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

During the MCO, most people were allowed to leave their homes only to buy groceries, food or medicine, and only essential workers such as hospital and supermarket staff were allowed to leave their homes daily.

Some businesses were allowed to reopen from May 4 under what was called a conditional MCO, as new cases began to taper off.

From June 10, under the recovery MCO, almost all social, educational, religious, business and economic sectors were allowed to resume operations in stages.

Travel between Malaysia's 13 states was also allowed to resume.

In a move to enforce recovery MCO measures, the authorities have arrested 617 people for various violations, Mr Ismail said.

Twenty were remanded by police for investigations and 597 were issued fines.

Conducting pub and nightclub operations, which remain prohibited, as well as failure to observe social distancing rules were among the violations that led to their arrests.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Malaysia to reimpose lockdown if new cases cross 100 a day. Subscribe