Malaysia reports 105 new COVID-19 cases, authorities warn movement control order still in force

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia reported 105 new coronavirus cases on Saturday (May 2) as the number of daily cases went back up to triple digits – a two-week high.

This brings the tally of COVID-19 cases in the country to 6,176.

Of the new infections, 11 were imported cases and 94 were from local transmissions, said health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah at a media briefing.

He added that 116 more patients have recovered and were discharged on Saturday, raising the total number of recoveries to 4,326.

Thirty-one cases are being treated in the intensive care unit, with 12 of them requiring ventilator support.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had on Friday announced an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing most economic sectors to open from May 4 with health protocols in place.

Businesses such as cinemas, karaoke lounges and Ramadan bazaars will remain closed, as social distancing would be difficult to enforce in activities that involve mass gatherings.

READ: COVID-19: Malaysia to open ‘almost all’ economic sectors from May 4 with health protocols in place, says PM Muhyiddin

The decision to ease restrictions sparked criticism in some quarters, including members of the ruling coalition. 

Former prime minister Najib Razak, whose political party UMNO is part of the ruling coalition, said the easing of measures was “huge and sudden” and that there was no rush to reopen the economy, local media reported.

A petition to stop the measures from being partially lifted had garnered over 250,000 signatures on Saturday.

Authorities stressed that the movement control order remains in force, and action will be taken against those who violate the rules.

Religious activities such as Friday prayers and congregation in mosques will not be permitted. 

Interstate travel, including to return to hometowns for the upcoming Aidilfitri celebration, is still not allowed. Schools and institutions of higher learning will remain closed. 

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Saturday that Malaysia was not being hasty in relaxing the curbs, stressing that businesses reopening on Monday will have to implement hygiene and social distancing measures.

He also urged residents to do their part, warning that the fight against COVID-19 is far from over.

“This is the new normal, even if the MCO (movement control order) comes to an end, social distancing and washing hands with soap and water must be maintained, to protect our health and safety,” he said.

The movement control order, enforced since Mar 18, has been extended three times until May 12.

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