KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - More economic sectors are allowed to reopen as the Covid-19 lockdown move is no longer feasible amid fears that shutdowns can have more negative implications, including on the mental health of Malaysians, said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
He said the reopening of the sectors would not only help speed up economic recovery but also give the people the opportunity to improve their livelihoods.
"The reopening of 11 economic sectors in states under phase one of the National Recovery Plan was appropriate due to the high vaccination rates in the states," he said on Tuesday (Sept 14), in reply to Jempol MP Mohd Salim Sharif who questioned the government's move to reopen economic sectors amid high daily Covid-19 cases.
"The government made the decision after taking into consideration data from the risk assessments conducted by the Health Ministry and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry."
Datuk Seri Ismail also said that 74.7 per cent of Malaysia's adult population has been fully vaccinated, while 91.6 per cent has received at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
He added that the sectors were reopened with strict compliance to standard operating procedure, including allowing only fully vaccinated customers and having only fully vaccinated workers on duty.
A total of 11 types of economic activities were allowed to resume operation in phase one of the recovery plan from Aug 16, including car wash, electrical and electronics shops, clothing, fashion and accessories shops, goldsmith shops, barbers, as well as beauty centres and hair salons.
To a supplementary question from Datuk Mohd Salim on whether the decision to reopen the sectors had taken into consideration the risks of Covid-19 infection for the unvaccinated population aged 17 and below, Mr Ismail said the responsibility lies with everyone to maintain discipline and self-control to prevent themselves, their families and their communities from being infected by the virus.
"When we reopen (the economic sectors), we see people beginning to flock to holiday destinations and some are not even wearing face masks," he said.
"The future of our country, in terms of Covid-19, depends on us.
"We cannot depend on the vaccine alone. Self-control is very important or all our efforts will be in vain."
To a question by Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Saifuddin Nasution Ismail on why the government relaxed social and economic restrictions despite the death toll hovering at three-digit figures daily, the Prime Minister maintained that the decision was done based on science and data.
Mr Ismail added that Covid-19 clusters from the 11 recently reopened economic sectors were few, citing the example of barbers, beauty salons and car wash shops that had sparked little to no known cases or clusters throughout last year.
"Based on data like these, we focused on reopening certain sectors," he said.
To Datuk Seri Saifuddin's question on why former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was chosen to head the National Recovery Council, Mr Ismail said this was because Tan Sri Muhyiddin had been chairing the meetings since the council was formed and therefore, was chosen as chair for the sake of continuity.