KUALA LUMPUR: Additional restrictions for Malaysia's ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO) will include mandating that more employees work from home and limiting operating hours for businesses, said Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Saturday (May 22).
In a joint press conference with Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah in Putrajaya, the minister outlined that 80 per cent of all workers in the public sector, as well as 40 per cent of workers in the private sector, will be required to work from home.
This will mean around 8 million fewer Malaysians who are commuting to work every day, he explained.
In announcing the nationwide lockdown known as MCO 3.0 on May 10, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had said that employers were compelled to implement the work-from-home policy, with no more than 30 per cent of management staff present in the office at any one time.
Mr Ismail Sabri added that public transport will also operate at 50 per cent capacity.
In addition, businesses will have to comply with operating hours of between 8am and 8pm, he said. Retailers in malls, restaurants offering takeaways, shops offering laundry services as well as petrol stations not located on highways will also need to comply with this rule.
"Our strategy is to reduce movement (of people) by reducing the number of people working in officers ... and to limit operating hours of the economic sector," said Mr Ismail Sabri.
He added that these restrictions will be implemented from May 25, and will be enforced throughout the country.
On Friday, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said that the federal government would tighten the current MCO 3.0 with stricter restrictions on its economic and social sectors to curb rising COVID-19 cases.
A statement was issued following a National Security Council meeting, where the health ministry gave a presentation on the COVID-19 situation in the country, including the infection rate and the health capacity of each state.
READ: Malaysia reports more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases for third consecutive day as ICUs near capacity
Earlier this month, Mr Muhyiddin announced that Malaysia would be placed under another nationwide MCO from May 12 to Jun 7.
The movement restrictions, the third time a nationwide MCO was introduced, saw interstate and cross-district travels suspended, and house visits and visiting of graves for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations banned.
All educational institutions were closed and dining-in at restaurants was also prohibited. Only three people were allowed to travel in each car, including the driver.
Despite the measures, the COVID-19 cases across the country have continued to surge over the last two weeks. Malaysia has reported more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases for each of the last three days as intensive care units (ICUs) in the country continue to struggle with the influx of patients.
During Saturday's press conference, Mr Ismail Sabri said that the measures in place from May 12 were focused on the social sector while the latest measures were targeted at the economic sector.
The minister was also asked why the government did not implement a "total lockdown" like that March 2020, when all activities including economic sectors were halted to curb the spread of the virus.
He replied: "The government has already justified that it is to strike a balance between the importance of health and the importance of the people's (economic) survival.
"When we did MCO 1.0, during the total lockdown, the government suffered RM2.4 billion (US$579 million) in losses."
He said that small business owners and employees would "struggle to survive" if another "total lockdown" is enforced.
PEOPLE ENCOURAGED TO WEAR DOUBLE FACE MASKS IN HIGH-RISK AREAS
At the press conference, Dr Noor Hisham also encouraged Malaysia residents to wear two layers of surgical masks, as it is more effective in protecting them from COVID-19, especially in high-risk areas such as hospitals.
"Wearing double face masks is encouraged but not compulsory. For those (visiting) high-risk areas like hospitals, we do not encourage them to wear fabric face masks. Instead, use three-ply or N95 face masks," said Dr Noor Hisham.
On Saturday, Malaysia logged 6,320 new cases, bringing the cumulative national tally past the half-a-million mark.
More than a third of these new reported cases were in the Klang Valley.