Malaysia to review ban on sports, outdoor activities in MCO areas after public furore

The move to ban all sports and outdoor activities in areas under movement curbs has been met with criticism. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will re-evaluate the government's decision to ban sports and outdoor recreational activities in areas under movement curbs, said Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican, following public anger over the matter.

He said in a statement on Friday (May 7) that he will put forward suggestions on health protocols to follow, for such activities during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

"The minister will raise a few proposals from the ministry concerning more prudent approaches towards sports and recreational activities during the MCO.

"These will be reconsidered in the National Security Council (NSC) special meeting this evening," said the statement. The NSC coordinates all matters related to Malaysia's fight against the coronavirus, which has surged again in recent weeks.

Datuk Seri Reezal said the ministry has taken note of the feedback on protocols to adopt for sports and recreational activities in MCO areas.

"The ministry is always committed and consistent about the perspective that sports is not just about the activity, but involves a larger ecosystem," he added.

Earlier, the NSC announced that all sports and recreational activities in MCO areas will not be allowed for the next two weeks, including activities in commercial facilities, public facilities and fields.

The decision was met with criticism by many, including medical experts like former Universiti Malaya medical faculty dean Adeeba Kamarulzaman and Health Ministry national adviser for infectious diseases Christopher Lee.

Professor Adeeba said the risk of getting Covid-19 outdoors is about 18 times lower than indoors and appealed to the authorities to allow people to "continue to jog, cycle, play football or any other outdoor sports".

Dr Lee appealed for science to guide policies, adding that "risk of outdoor spread is low" and that there has been no major cluster linked to outdoor exercise and non-contact sports.

Critics on social media pointed out that Ramadan food bazaars have been allowed to continue. These street bazaars typically attract thousands of people despite being identified as a source of Covid-19 infections.

The MCO has been imposed for the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur, most parts of surrounding Selangor state and eastern Kelantan state.

Covid-19 cases reported daily have remained above 3,000 for the past week, with 3,551 cases reported on Thursday.

But Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal defended the NSC's move, saying that an assessment was made by the authorities before deciding on the ban.

"As sports enthusiasts, of course we are saddened by this restriction, but I'm pretty sure the Health Ministry and the NSC have deployed all necessary scientific tools and dataset before arriving at this decision."

"Hopefully things will get better," he said in a tweet on Thursday evening.

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