KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday (May 10) extended the country's conditional stay-at-home order by another four weeks, to June 9.
The Prime Minister said that although new Covid-19 cases are lower now than at the start of the movement curbs, the fight is not yet over.
"Even though we have achieved positive developments in the war against Covid-19, we haven't fully succeeded yet," he warned, adding that most Malaysians want the government to take the necessary steps to fight the spread of the virus.
"Therefore, based on advice from the Health Ministry and the National Security Council, I wish to announce that the conditional movement control order that runs until May 12 ... will remain in force until 9 June."
Malaysia first imposed movement curbs on March 18, as coronavirus cases began to rise sharply. Schools and non-essential businesses were shut, and people were confined to their homes except to buy food, essential items or to seek medical treatment.
These controls were eased on May 4, allowing most businesses to reopen and people to travel for work. Schools however remain shut and large social gatherings are still banned. Travel between Malaysia's 13 states is barred except for work purposes, and the country's borders remain shut to tourists.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the country's annual mass exodus to hometowns, or "balik kampung", ahead of the Hari Raya Aidilftri celebrations in two weeks' time will not be allowed, nor will large open houses. Similar restrictions on travel and large gatherings apply to other upcoming festivals including Gawai and Kaamaatan, which are widely celebrated in east Malaysia.
However, he said, small gatherings for the upcoming festive celebrations, up a maximum of 20 people, are allowed. He reminded people to take the necessary precautions during such events, by practising social distancing measures and using face masks and hand sanitisers.
He said that guidelines for when houses of worship can be reopened are also being discussed.
A total of 6.64 million, or 43.6 per cent of Malaysians have returned to work since controls were eased last Monday, and more are expected to do so in the coming weeks, the Prime Minister said.
"Do not be careless ... As more people go back to work, the risk of infection is higher. The coming weeks are critical," he said adding that the government will not hesitate to impose lockdowns in areas experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases.
"So please abide by the government SOP. Avoid crowded places. Practice social distancing. Wear masks. Always wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. And only go out when necessary," he said, referring to standard operating procedures for lowering the risk of infection.
Malaysian health authorities said last week the country is in a "recovery phase", as the number of new daily cases have mostly come down to double digits in the last three weeks. This is a marked improvement from the triple digits recorded in mid-March and the first two weeks of April.
It reported 67 new cases on Sunday, bringing the tally to 6,656. The death toll remained at 108, with no new deaths reported. The country's recovery rate for the disease stands at 75.5 per cent of confirmed cases.