SINGAPORE: Malaysia has extended its nationwide lockdown until June 9 to curb the movement of people during Ramadan and Eid celebrations at the end of the month, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in an address to the nation on Sunday.
“On the advice of the Health Ministry and the National Security Council, I would like to announce that the conditional MCO (movement control order) effective until May 12, will be extended until June 9 or another four weeks,” he said.
Ramadan is an important month for Muslims across Malaysia who comprise 60 percent of the total population of 32.37 million.
However, Malaysia is also home to a multicultural society, where almost all religious and cultural festivities are celebrated and considered a national holiday.
“During this period, there are major festivals celebrated and these will usually involve a mass movement of people, namely the Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the Harvest Festival. Thus, I would like to remind people that the interstate movement ban is still in force during this period,” Muhyiddin said.
It is common practice for Malaysians to travel across state borders to visit their grandparents and relatives during festivities and public holidays, with several hosting large gatherings as part of Ramadan celebrations.
“I know many people are sad as they are unable to return for the holidays in the village with the family,” said the 72-year-old Malaysian leader, urging Malaysians to “be patient” and wait until thing return to normal.
However, the public is allowed to visit neighbors and relatives and celebrate festivities within state borders, while spouses with partners working in different states are exempted from the ban.
As an additional measure, a maximum of 20 people are allowed to gather at a time, as long as they practice proper social distancing and hygiene measures.
While most places of worship remained closed on Sunday, authorities said that they were considering whether or not to allow Friday prayers and other congregational prayers during the month.
Malaysia imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 to flatten the coronavirus curve.
With a significant decrease in the infection rate, the latest tally stands at less than 100 cases, with 5,025 recoveries reported.
As part of efforts to gradually build up the country’s economy, Malaysia eased the MCO earlier this week to allow most businesses to operate.
Experts commended the move, with Malaysian physician and public health specialist, Dr. Khor Swee Kheng, telling Arab News on Sunday that he “welcomed the extension.”
“Malaysia has to prepare for an ultra-long-term strategy for COVID-19, as we will be in this until 2021 at least. This means strategic and predictable decision-making, not short-term reactions,” Dr. Khor said, adding that a “phased restart of public life was imperative.”
“The longer the MCO or CMCO lasts, the more important it is to focus on the social determinants of health. Citizens and residents of Malaysia must receive adequate economic, social and psychological support, not only health care. The social safety net must be strengthened now,” he said.