Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has announced a new movement control order (MCO), in a special address to the nation on Monday (11 January), in a bid to quell the country’s spiralling Covid-19 infection rate.
The MCO will be reimposed in six states from just past midnight on Wednesday, 13 January till Tuesday, 26 January. They are: Penang, Selangor, Federal Territories, Johor, Melaka and Sabah.
An additional six states will remain under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) during the same period. Perlis and Sarawak will be placed under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).
"The situation today is indeed very alarming. Our healthcare system is under tremendous pressure now than at any other time since the start of the pandemic. As I have said before, unprecedented situations call for unprecedented measures," said Muhyiddin.
On Sunday, an additional 2,433 cases of the coronavirus were announced, bringing Malaysia’s total to 135,992 cases. Of these, 27,332 cases are active.
The move comes amid continued political instability and warnings from both the SME Association of Malaysia and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers that another lockdown could be the death blow for many businesses still recovering from the MCO.
Here’s a timeline of the various iterations of the MCO that have been imposed in Malaysia since 16 March 2020.
Movement Control Order (18 March to 12 May)
On 16 March, the MCO was officially instituted under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967, with implementation two days later. Restrictions included:
A ban on mass movements and gatherings, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.
Malaysians returning from abroad to undergo a health check and a 14-day quarantine
Restrictions on the entry of all tourists and foreign visitors into the country
Shutdown of all kindergartens, government and private schools, as well as public and private higher education institutions (IPTs) and skills training institutes
Closure of all government and private premises except those involved in essential services such as water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, and transportation
Following several extensions of the MCO – each time by a fortnight – the MCO was extended till 12 May.
Enhanced MCO and Semi-Enhanced MCO
From 27 March, specific areas were subjected to a stricter order called the Enhanced MCO) for 14 days if a large cluster was detected there. This was to allow authorities to conduct Covid-19 tests for all residents and stop the spread of the virus.
Restrictions included: all residents and visitors forbidden from leaving their homes; non-residents and visitors cannot enter, with all roads into the area blocked; and all businesses shut down.
From 14 May, the Pudu area in Kuala Lumpur also came under Semi-Enhanced MCO, with barbed wire fences placed at road exits.
Conditional MCO (4 May to 9 June)
On 1 May, a relaxation of restrictions was announced in a bid to gradually reopen the economy. Termed the Conditional MCO, this allowed most economic sectors and activities to resume while observing business standard operating procedures such as social distancing and contact tracing. Outdoor sports activities of not more than 10 persons were also allowed.
However, sports activities involving large gatherings, body contact and other risks of infection were still banned, as well as social, community, religious and cultural events which involved large gatherings. Interstate travel remained disallowed except for work and to allow individuals who had been stranded by the MCO to return home.
Recovery MCO (9 June to 31 March)
On 7 June, authorities announced that the Recovery MCO would take place from 10 June, with interstate travel allowed allowed to resume except in areas remaining under the Enhanced MCO.
Certain religious activities were allowed to resume, albeit with many restrictions. A range of businesses and activities also resumed, including swimming pools, spas, cinemas, meetings, seminars and weddings. Government and private pre-schools, kindergartens, nurseries and daycare centres also resumed operations from 1 July.
The RMCO was subsequently extended twice: first from 28 August till 31 December, then till 31 March 2021 as the number of cases remained high.