KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – Malaysia decided to further extend the movement control order (MCO) by another 14 days until April 28.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a live address yesterday based on advice from the Health Ministry and medical specialists, the extension of the MCO was to give space for medical personnel to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent its re-emergence in the community.
“This is in line with WHO’s (World Health Organization) views requesting countries not to end movement control prematurely. As has happened in a few countries, the pandemic spreads again when the movement control ends,” he said.
“We must be prepared for this situation for a few months. It might continue until we are truly sure we have overcome the spread of this pandemic 100 per cent.”
The Prime Minister noted that the MCO helped reduce the spread of the pandemic, and the growth of positive cases had been controlled to a rate of seven per cent, below the 10 per cent benchmark set by the WHO.
The death rate was at 1.6 per cent, lower than the WHO average of 5.8 per cent, he added.
“The number of (daily) positive cases has also decreased. If this trend continues for the next two weeks, we can prevent COVID-19 from spreading. But we cannot take the situation lightly,” Muhyiddin said.
The first phase of MCO, implemented to break the COVID-19 infection chain, was scheduled to end on March 31, but was later pushed back to April 14.
Under MCO, schools and non-essential businesses are closed. People are urged to stay at home to minimise contact as health authorities rush against the clock to contain the spread of the virus.
Several locations with a large number of cases were placed under an enhanced MCO, which further restricted the residents’ movement.
During the MCO, a daily three-figure jump in cases brought the total tally past 4,000, with more than 60 deaths reported.
Feeling the pinch of economic activity grinding to a halt, the business community has spoken out against a prolonged extension. However, health experts have called for the government to consider a longer MCO period until the coast is clear.
In his speech yesterday, Muhyiddin said a few selected sectors will be reopened in stages, with health guidelines and strict movement controls in place.
He said a special Cabinet committee has been formed to examine the list of select economic sectors to be reopened gradually.
He warned that this did not mean a loosening of the MCO’s restrictions, and any company or factory found violating the restrictions would find their permission to operate revoked.
The list of sectors he said, would be announced very soon.
Pointing out that Malaysia’s neighbours were also suffering from the same pandemic, the Prime Minister said he ordered the heads of law enforcement agencies and security apparatus to tighten security at the borders to prevent entry via illegal routes.
“Let me remind you that the war on COVID-19 is not yet over. The fight is still on. We are doing well so far, so just uplift your spirit and continue to fight. If we persevere, Insya Allah, we will win,” he said in concluding his address.