KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's movement control order (MCO) will enter a “recovery phase" beginning next Wednesday (Jun 10) until Aug 31, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.
The MCO, first imposed on Mar 18 to control the spread of COVID-19, was previously extended four times until Jun 9.
In a televised address on Sunday, Mr Muhyiddin said the recovery phase is part of the country's exit strategy from the MCO, following a downward trend in the infection rate.
"Malaysia has successfully contained the spread of the pandemic and will now enter the recovery phase," he said.
Under the recovery MCO, "almost all" social, educational, religious and business activities, as well as economic sectors will reopen in phases, with standard operating procedures to be adhered to, Mr Muhyiddin said.
Interstate travel will be allowed, except for areas placed under enhanced MCO, while the country's borders will remain closed, the prime minister said.
As of Saturday, Malaysia reported a total of 8,303 COVID-19 cases and 117 deaths. Close to 80 per cent of the patients have recovered.
The MCO 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 have been given the green light to reopen.
Beginning Jun 10, Malaysians returning from overseas will be allowed to return home to undergo quarantine for 14 days, instead of being sent to quarantine centres, if they test negative for COVID-19.
While infections rose in immigration detention centres, the number of new daily local transmissions involving Malaysians have dropped to mostly single digits.
To regenerate the country’s economy, stimulus packages worth RM295 billion (US$69 billion) in total have been rolled out. Mr Muhyiddin said on Friday that 83.5 per cent of workers have returned to work.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz told Reuters that Malaysia’s fiscal deficit will nearly double to around 6 per cent of its annual economic output this year in order to finance the stimulus.
ACTIVITIES INVOLVING HUGE CROWDS STILL BARRED
In his Sunday address, Mr Muhyiddin said schools will reopen in stages during the recovery MCO phase, pending further announcements from the Ministry of Education.
With the interstate travel ban lifted, domestic tourism is allowed, he added.
However, sports activities and competitions which involve the gathering of spectators or supporters in stadiums, swimming in public pools and sports with physical contact are still barred.
Similarly, pubs, night clubs, entertainment outlets, reflexology centres, religious parades and other activities that involve huge crowds are not permitted, Mr Muhyiddin said.
Social distancing, wearing of masks in public spaces and handwashing with soap or sanitiser are part of the new normal that must be practised, he said.
The prime minister said the country will enter a normalisation phase after Aug 31, until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
The government will enforce enhanced MCO in areas with a spike in positive COVID-19 cases.
"I hope all of us will have discipline so that a rise in COVID-19 cases can be prevented," he said.