KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia announced on Tuesday (Feb 2) that it will extend the movement control order (MCO) for all states and federal territories, with the exception of Sarawak, from Feb 5 until Feb 18.
Last month, all states in the country except Sarawak were placed under MCO from Jan 22 until Feb 4 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Making the announcement in a televised press conference, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakobsaid: "The Health Ministry confirmed that daily cases in all these states still show an upward trend, with positivity rate in clusters at between 20 per cent and 40 per cent."
"Besides that, the sporadic spread within the community is also high, involving citizens as well as non-citizens."
"Hence, taking into account the risk evaluation and the Health Ministry's advice, the special meeting today has decided to extend MCO 2.0 throughout the country from Feb 5 to Feb 18, except Sarawak which will continue to be under conditional movement control order (CMCO)," he said.
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Interstate travel is still not permitted, the minister added.
When Malaysia was first placed under the MCO in March last year, almost all economic activities ceased, except for essential services such as food and beverage outlets and pharmacies.
The lockdown saw the country reduce its COVID-19 cases to single digits in the first half of 2020. MCO was replaced by CMCO and recovery movement control order (RMCO), while localised restrictions were introduced in areas with a spike in cases.
In contrast, this current MCO, dubbed "MCO 2.0", has allowed more economic sectors to continue functioning, such as the automotive sector and retailers like gold and jewellery shops.
Mr Ismail Sabri, who is also Defence Minister, noted the difference between MCO 2.0 and the previous MCO in his Tuesday press conference.
However, he maintained that the restrictions for MCO 2.0 would continue to be tightened to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.
For instance, the number of people permitted to enter supermarkets at any one time would be restricted to prevent large gatherings of customers within close proximity.
A detailed list of new standard operating procedures would be released by the National Security Council, he added.
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Last week, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz told CNA in an interview that the country cannot afford another total lockdown as it will be “very detrimental” to the economy.
Since MCO 2.0 was enforced in January, Malaysia has continued to battle a sharp spike in infections and has consistently reported four-digit daily increases in COVID-19 cases.
On Sunday, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said the sharp increase in the number of daily cases, exceeding 5,000 for three consecutive days, was due to the late reporting of cases to the authorities.
On Tuesday, Malaysia reported 3,455 new COVID-19 cases, taking its tally to 222,628 infections.
In all, 47,847 are active cases, with 327 patients in intensive care, and 145 people requiring ventilator support.
Malaysia also reported 21 more COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, the highest single-day fatalities since the pandemic hit the country early last year, taking its death toll from the disease to 791.