Malaysia yesterday ordered malls, restaurants and stores to operate for shorter periods from Tuesday as the government took several steps to suppress a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
The government also wants 80% of civil servants, or 750,000 people, to start working from home. The private sector has been asked to allow 40 percent of its workforce to do the same, affecting 6.1 million workers.
Businesses will only be allowed to operate from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., instead of closing at 10:00 p.m.
The new rules are in addition to the May 12 ban on eating at restaurants and food stalls.
The announcement was made during a press conference broadcast live on television by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Malaysia joins several other parts of Asia that are also battling a spike in Covid-19 infections, from Singapore and Taiwan to Thailand and India.
Meanwhile, at the G-20 virtual health summit on Friday, producers of coronavirus vaccines pledged billions of doses for the poorest countries, and leaders pledged to expand access to injections as the only way to end the pandemic.
Datuk Seri Ismail said at the press conference: “The emergence of new aggressive variants of Covid-19 has contributed to the increase in cases. Therefore, more stringent measures must be put in place to contain it.”
He added, “Since businesses close at 8 p.m. there is no need to go outside. The government can impose all kinds of restrictions, but ultimately our self-discipline to quarantine ourselves matters most.”
But acceding to pressure from large companies and small traders, who depend on daily sales of their products to survive, Ismail said the government would not force factories to close or prevent pasar malam (night markets). to work.
The announcement followed concerns about the peak in Covid-19 cases and the already weak economy, which could be hit hard if a stricter movement control order (MCO) is imposed.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said in a separate event that shutting down most of the economy could result in the loss of a million people.
Malaysia is in week two of a four-week OLS, but Covid-19 cases have continued to increase in recent weeks. Dubbed MCO 3.0, current sidewalks prevent movement between states and between districts.
The daily number of cases in the past four days was over 6,000, the highest on Thursday at 6,806, with a record 59 deaths on the same day.
Malaysia yesterday reported 6,320 cases and 50 deaths.
The increase in the number of cases has put a strain on the healthcare system, including intensive care units (ICUs) designated for Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the country.
Tan Sri Noor Hisham said on Facebook yesterday that public hospitals in the Klang Valley, including Kuala Lumpur, are working at an average of 113% as more patients fall seriously ill.
“To cope with this increase, hospitals have had to reuse other areas, such as normal wards, as temporary intensive care units by equipping beds with certain equipment,” he wrote.
MCO 3.0 started on May 12, a day before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and will last until June 7.
Malaysia imposed MCO 1.0 between March and May last year, shutting malls, offices and most factories, and only allowing essential services like pharmacies and supermarkets to remain open.
In MCO 2.0, imposed on most states between late January and early March this year, malls and most factories were allowed to operate.
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