Most Malaysian states could reopen by October: PM Muhyiddin

Malaysia expects to reopen the economy and lift movement controls in most states as early as October, as the country ramps up its Covid-19 immunisation drive, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told Parliament yesterday.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin was briefing lawmakers on the National Recovery Plan (NRP), which outlines how the government intends to exit from movement curbs introduced in May and currently in place nationwide.

"God willing, with continuous efforts to drive the recovery process and the immunisation programme going smoothly, we expect most states to move into the fourth phase as early as October," he said.

Phase one of the NRP is the most restrictive, with only essential services allowed to operate and people and businesses placed under lockdown. Under phase four, people will return to normal daily life, with most economic sectors allowed to operate again, subject to protocols such as contact tracing and social distancing.

As at yesterday, five states - Kedah, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor - and three federal territories - Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan - remain under lockdown under phase one.

The remaining eight states - Perlis, Perak, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak - have transitioned to phase two. While travel restrictions remain under phase two, businesses such as hairdressers and car wash outlets are allowed to open.

Mr Muhyiddin later drew flak from opposition lawmakers for being absent from Parliament in the evening, when they posed questions on the NRP.

He instead left it to Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz to answer questions on his behalf.

"Never before in history - since Independence, since the establishment of Parliament - where questions to the Prime Minister... are answered by the Finance Minister," said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysia continues to see daily infections soar despite shutting down most economic sectors and keeping people home.

It reported a record high of 17,045 new infections on Sunday, which sent the total number of cases since the pandemic began over the one-million mark.

Yesterday, daily infections dipped slightly to 14,516 cases, but the daily death toll hit a new high of 207.

The Klang Valley region - consisting of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and its most populous state Selangor - continued to contribute the bulk of infections.

The southern state of Johor saw a surge in cases to 1,449, surpassing cases in the capital.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin said the government will move to tighten movement curbs based on locality instead of implementing blanket restrictions on a whole state or territory.

As at Sunday, 5.4 million people, representing 16.5 per cent of the country's population, have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Over 11.5 million people, or 35.2 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose.

Parliament was meeting yesterday for the first time this year following pressure from the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, to reconvene as the Covid-19 pandemic situation worsened.

Parliament had been effectively suspended since a state of emergency was declared in January, purportedly to tackle surging Covid-19 infections. But the number of cases and deaths has climbed steeply since.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2021, with the headline 'Most Malaysian states could reopen by October: PM Muhyiddin'. Subscribe