Covid-19: Malaysia Starts Easing Some Restrictions

Putrajaya says interstate travel is possible for work purposes, while restaurants can now reopen.

Putra Mosque in the city of Putrajaya, Malaysia’s seat of government. (Photo: Tourism Malaysia)

Last Friday, Malaysian prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the federal government would be downgrading its lockdown restrictions to a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) as of Monday, May 4, with “almost all economic sectors… allowed to open with conditions.” At the time, he spoke of the pressing need to restart the economy, which has suffered a cumulative loss of 63 billion ringgit (more than US$14.6 billion) in the six weeks since the nationwide cordon sanitaire, officially known as the Movement Control Order, was implemented on March 18.

Under the CMCO, restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in services, so long as tables are placed two meters apart, all workers wear face masks, and the names of all patrons are registered in case they are needed for future contact tracing. Non-contact sports such as badminton and tennis can be played outdoors, along with running and cycling in small groups of not more than 10 people. Interstate travel is now permitted only for work purposes, with Muhyiddin stressing that no one can cross state boundaries to return to their hometowns for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday at the end of Ramadan.

However, it remains up to state governments to decide whether or not to implement the CMCO. Penang is opting for a more gradual reopening of its economy, allowing certain businesses to come back online on Friday, including those in land and air transportation, hospitality, finance, IT, manufacturing, and agriculture. Food outlets will be offering only takeout services until May 13, when the remaining sectors (such as sports, culture, and creative industries) are expected to restart.

Next door in Kedah, which no longer has any active cases of Covid-19, the CMCO will not take effect until its Security Council Working Committee makes a final decision on Tuesday; Pahang will postpone its implementation for now in light of a similar meeting this Friday. In East Malaysia, the leaders of Sarawak believe its experts require more time to study the implications of the CMCO before easing restrictions, while Sabah’s government said it would continue the lockdown measures until May 12.

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