Malaysians support extended coronavirus curbs, but fear new Hari Raya clusters

Some even disagree with the administration's plan to further ease restrictions. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Most Malaysians have been stuck at home for nearly two months under the country's partial shutdown that has helped curb the coronavirus outbreak but cost the economy billions of ringgit in losses.

Yet many of them still support the government's move on Sunday (May 10) to extend these controls - albeit with concessions allowing businesses to reopen - for another four weeks to June 9.

Some even disagree with the administration's plan to further ease restrictions and allow small gatherings of up to 20 people for the upcoming festive celebrations, saying it is misconceived and could spark fresh clusters of infection.

Lauding the extension of the conditional movement control order (CMCO), Ms Melor Zambri said it's important for Malaysians to make sacrifices now so they can go back to their "old life" sooner.

"The government has been kind by allowing businesses to reopen, this allows us to focus on our personal economic well-being during this difficult time. The least we can do is practise good hygiene and stay at home after work, don't go out if it's not necessary. It's the only way we can beat the virus and go back to how things were before," the 29-year-old food and beverage business owner told The Straits Times.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has warned that the fight against the pandemic is not yet over, even though the number of new daily coronavirus cases has fallen to double-digits over the past week. As at Monday, the country has reported 6,726 confirmed cases and 109 deaths from the coronavirus.

Malaysia first imposed movement curbs on March 18, under which schools and non-essential businesses were shut, and people were confined to their homes except to buy food and essential items or to seek medical treatment.

These controls were eased last Monday, allowing most businesses to reopen and people to travel for work. Schools however remain shut and large gatherings are still banned.

Describing the CMCO extension as striking the right balance between prioritising public health and ensuring business activities resume, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Soh Thian Lai said all parties should work hand-in-hand to flatten the Covid-19 curve while allowing people to survive by earning a living.

"The operations of sectors and businesses under the CMCO will continue to be governed by standard operating procedures and Covid-19 precautionary measures. The business community must continue to ensure strict adherence to these requirements," he said as quoted by local daily New Straits Times on Monday.

Malaysian Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Association president Rosli Sulaiman, said that the extension was for the best.

"I know it's hard for traders because even though they have been allowed to resume business since May 4, the response has not been great. What's important is to make sure we are fully free from the coronavirus," he said, according to the daily.

While restrictions on travel between states and the annual exodus to hometowns for the Hari Raya celebrations continue to apply, the government has allowed small gatherings for the festive celebrations, up to a maximum of 20 people.

This move has drawn flak from several quarters.

"I don't agree with this at all. Do we want a Hari Raya cluster? 20 people in one house is a crowd, why should we allow that? And how can we be sure that all Malaysians are a bunch of responsible people?" said nurse Mawar Husnani Ahmad, 30.

Public health watchdog, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, also criticised the move, saying it is impossible for people to know whether their friends and relatives have been infected.

"No ifs, buts or caveats," said Galen's chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib.

"There is no rationale given on why the 20-person (limit) is acceptable when 30 isn't, or how risk is reduced and acceptable in a party of 20," he added.

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