Categories: MALAYSIA

No complete lockdown but more WFH, fewer business hours

KUALA LUMPUR: Additional restrictions for Malaysia’s ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO) will include mandating more employees work from home and limiting operating hours for businesses in a revised order of the third so-called total lockdown.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Saturday (May 22) in a joint press conference with Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah in Putrajaya 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 says. Hence, there will be no total lockdown.

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 while businesses will have to comply with new operating hours.

The hours are now between 8am and 8pm. 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.

Muslims wearing protective masks pray outside the National Mosque while celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

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.

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a woman during coronavirus testing in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Malaysian authorities imposed tighter restrictions on movement to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

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.

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