KUALA LUMPUR: The recovery phase of Malaysia's COVID-19 movement control order (RMCO) will be extended to Dec 31 and tourists will remain barred from entering the country, said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Speaking in a televised address on Friday (Aug 28), the prime minister said even though the number of new cases in the country has fallen, the virus is still raging globally. The RMCO phase was originally scheduled to end on Aug 31.
"I am aware that based on global developments, we will go through a lengthy period before the country can be completely free from the threat of COVID-19," he said.
"For now, the situation is controlled. However, if there is an increase in cases in certain locations, the government will take a targeted approach by implementing enhanced movement control order or targeted movement control order, as previously enforced in several locations."
He added: "This means that the government requires a legal mechanism to continue efforts to curb and control the spread of COVID-19. Hence, for the benefit of you all, the government has decided to extend the recovery movement control order until Dec 31, 2020."
He also emphasised that no individual will be excused from these laws and anyone who breaks the regulations will be punished.
Mr Muhyiddin expressed his support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to increase the fines for those who break these laws, to twice or thrice the current amounts.
The prime minister also pointed out that the extension will ensure all parties adhere to the standard operating procedures and health protocols that have been outlined.
He added that foreign tourists are still barred from entering Malaysia during this period to prevent the spread of imported cases into the country.
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Almost all sectors have been permitted to resume their operations, except for night clubs and entertainment outlets, the prime minister said.
All sporting activities are permitted, sans the presence of spectators or overseas participants, he added.
As of Friday, Malaysia reported a total of 9,306 COVID-19 cases and 125 deaths. Around 97 per cent of the patients have recovered.
A total of 10 new cases were detected on Friday, the MOH said.
The MCO, first imposed on Mar 18 to control the spread of COVID-19, was previously extended three times until May 12.
It was initially enforced when the number of daily new cases saw an alarming three-figure spike. Under the MCO, domestic and international travel was barred, and people were encouraged to stay at home to break the infection chain.
After six weeks of economic inactivity, Malaysia eased into a “conditional MCO” beginning May 4, allowing almost all economic sectors to reopen.
Subsequently, controls continued to be lifted over time. Daycare centres, hair salons, beauty parlours, open markets and night markets were given the green light to reopen.
Malaysia later entered the RMCO phase from Jun 10, where almost all social, educational, religious and business activities, as well as economic sectors reopened in phases, with standard operating procedures to be adhered to. Interstate travel was also permitted while the country's borders remained closed.
Four months of efforts seemed to have paid off as Malaysia began to report mostly single-digit increase in daily new cases - and even zero local transmission on a few days - until new clusters emerged.
On the back of 13 new clusters detected during the RMCO phase, Mr Muhyiddin had earlier reminded Malaysians to comply with social distancing rules and warned the public not to be complacent.
On Aug 3, Malaysia's Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the wearing of face masks was compulsory in crowded public areas, including markets, supermarkets, tourist areas, cinemas and on public transport.