Malaysia extends Covid-19 movement curbs to Dec 31; tourists still not allowed to enter

Malaysia's recovery movement control order started on June 10 to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday (Aug 28) that the country's movement curbs will be extended to Dec 31, as the coronavirus pandemic isn't showing any signs of ending soon.

In a national televised address, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the recent worrying emergence of new clusters in several states and number of cases also led him to extend the recovery movement control order (MCO).

"Although we have handled the crisis well... in the interest of everyone, the government has decided that the recovery MCO will be extended to Dec 31, 2020," he said.

The extension will allow the government to quickly handle outbreaks under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, he said, while Malaysians will continue to adhere to health protocols set by the government.

Under the recovery MCO that began on June 10, most businesses have been allowed to reopen as long as they follow protocols such as recording the temperatures of visitors to their premises and imposing social distancing.

Nightclubs and pubs remained shut under the recovery MCO, with the authorities saying it would be impossible to ensure health protocols such as social distancing at such outlets.

The movement restrictions were originally slated to end on Monday.

Malaysia's borders will also generally remain shut, with those flying into Malaysia mandated to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine to prevent the spread of imported cases.

"Tourists are still not allowed to enter the country to avoid import cases," Mr Muhyiddin said.

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

The strict stay-at-home rules bore fruit when daily cases began tapering, which led to the government starting the recovery MCO from June 10, gradually reopening many businesses and mass activities such as public worship and contact sports.

Malaysia on Aug 1 made it compulsory for everyone to wear face masks in crowded public places and on public transport, after the authorities observed lower compliance to social distancing when it entered the recovery phase of the curbs.

"Due to face masks becoming an essential item in our everyday life, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs is discussing with manufacturers to reduce the price. If it's fruitful, the price will be more affordable and can ease our burden," PM Muhyiddin said in his speech.

Malaysia on Friday reported 10 new Covid-19 cases, bringing total infections to 9,306. The total death toll caused by the virus remained at 125.

The Health Ministry has proposed raising the fine by 10 times to RM10,000 (S$3,260), for those who break the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).

"I support the recommendation by the Health Ministry to increase the fine for those who committed an offence (under the Act), at least two or three times more than the amount now. But this needs to be studied first before the Act is amended," Mr Muhyiddin said.

The proposal by the ministry came just days after Cabinet minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali breached the mandatory quarantine order following his return from Turkey on July 7.

Instead of being quarantined for 14 days like other returnees from abroad, he was seen on his social media postings going about attending functions with others including meeting other ministers.

This raised public anger as other Malaysians had been fined and even jailed, for violating the quarantine.

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