The government has announced that it will allow the reopening of almost all economic sectors and business activities from Monday, May 4. Under a new conditional aspect to the movement control order (MCO), which will be known as a CMCO, businesses will be allowed to resume operation subject to conditions and tight standard operating procedures (SOP), prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said in a special Labour Day address to the nation earlier today.

He said the decision to introduce the ease restrictions progressively and cautiously – with stringent SOPs in place – has been made following advice from the health ministry. The matter was also discussed at length during Economic Action Council (EAC), National Security Council (NSC) and Cabinet meetings.

He said that the halting of the economy had impacted the nation at great cost financially, with the country losing RM2.4 billion a day since the MCO began on March 18, and total losses so far was estimated at around RM63 billion. If the MCO – which is currently in phase four – goes on for another month, he said the country would lose another RM35 billion.

Muhyiddin said that the government has clear and definite plans to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and tackle the economic crisis with six strategies. Now that the first two, the resolve in controlling the outbreak and the building of economic resilience through the Prihatin economic stimulus package, had been accomplished, he said it was time to move on to the third strategy.

As such, the government is ready to restart the economy. The PM said he is aware that after two months of undergoing the restrictions imposed by the MCO, many are eager to go back to work, and traders are keen to restart their business as livelihoods have been affected.

“At the same time, many are also concerned that if the order is lifted, there is a possibility of a new outbreak. I know you are worried. I am too. We must find a way to balance the need for the economy to recover and the importance to contain Covid-19,” he said.

“We will implement a conditional movement control order (MCO), where most economic and social activities will be allowed. However, activities that involve mass gathering and exposing the public to the risk of being infected with Covid-19 will still not be allowed,” he said.

He said that any element that involves mass gatherings, body contact or where social distancing could not be controlled will not be permitted. Businesses, events and activities that are NOT allowed to open or be held under the CMCO include:

  • Ramadan and Aidilfitri bazaars
  • Cinemas
  • Karaoke centres
  • Night clubs
  • Sales events, conferences and exhibitions
  • Social gatherings such as kenduris, open houses, mass buka puasa activity as well as concerts and cultural shows
  • All religious activities such as processions, Friday prayers and gatherings in mosques and worship houses

Meanwhile, outdoor sports that do not involve physical contact – such as jogging, badminton, cycling and golf- are permitted, but those involving person-to-person contact such as football, rugby and swimming as well as all indoor sports are not. Hair/beauty salons and barber shops will also remain closed, so that bad hair month will just have to continue.

The government is also easing up on restrictions imposed on food outlets. The PM said that restaurants and eateries can open for dine-ins, but establishments must adhere to strict conditions that have been set. These include:

  • Establishing a two metre distance between tables
  • Maintaining social distancing measures on those seated at the table as well as when lining up at payment counters (with line markers for this purpose)
  • Establishments must provide adequate hand-washing liquid at wash basins as well as access to hand sanitisers at payment counters for customers
  • Sanitisation of tables to be carried out prior to customers being seated
  • Workers must be equipped with face masks and wear them at all times
  • Customers’ temperatures must be taken before they enter the premises
  • Recording the name and mobile number of the customer as well as the date of visit, the last for contact tracing purposes if needed

Operating times for food establishments during the CMCO is from 5am to 12am, but customers are only permitted on the premises from 7am to 10pm. From a dine-in perspective, it will be interesting to see if social distancing measures can be enforced successfully when it comes to seating arrangements, given the mentality of Malaysians when it comes to such matters.

Supermarkets, convenience stores, mini marts and pharmacies will now be allowed to operate from 8am to 11pm (currently, 8am to 8pm), while the permissible operating hours for vehicle workshops, maintenance and spare parts outlets is 7am to 10pm. Petrol stations, which are currently open from 8am to 8pm, have their operating hours listed as being subject to that defined by state government and local authorities.

Muhyiddin said that people are still advised not to leave home unless necessary, and said that despite the relaxing of restrictions, companies should continue to have their employees work from home if possible. He added that interstate travel is still banned (which means no travel back to hometowns for Hari Raya), and that schools, colleges and universities will remain closed.

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