by by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE government will tighten restrictions on public movements, including shortening business hours for essential services, as the authority clamps down on abuses of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and steps up efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Under Phase 2 of the MCO, which is effective from tomorrow (April 1), operating hours of grocery outlets, restaurants and food delivery services are limited to between 8am and 8pm. The directive also applies to restaurants which are open for takeaways, food delivery businesses and petrol stations.
Movement of vehicles will also be restricted from tomorrow, with private vehicles including e-hailing and taxis allowed to operate only between 6am and 10pm.
Operations of public transport services, however, remain from 6am to 10am and 5pm to 10pm.
“Only one person, that is the driver, is allowed in private vehicles, except during emergency time.
“We will continue to limit movement under Phase 2 of the MCO. It will be different than what we currently have. However, let me assure you that the public will still be allowed to go out and buy food under the second phase. The hours may be different,” Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in Putrajaya yesterday.
He also advised commercial vehicles used to transport goods to travel between 7pm and 7am.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the two-week extension of the MCO last Wednesday. The first phase of the MCO was supposed to end today (March 31).
Ismail Sabri, however, said MCO Phase 2 will see stricter enforcement, but not like what has been enforced in Simpang Renggam, Johor, and Hulu Langat, Selangor.
In those areas, the people are totally barred from leaving their homes and outsiders are barred from entering the affected areas.
“I want to stress that under Phase 2, we still allow movement of people and shops are still open. We just restrict business operating hours,” he said.
The minister said the government is encouraging people to shop online and avoid any contact with delivery service people.
Ismail Sabri, who is one of the senior ministers in Muhyiddin’s Cabinet, said all recreational and social activities are not allowed, whether they are conducted in public or gated areas.
“We don’t want to discriminate, laws are applied to all, whether you are in a gated area or not.
“However, there is an exception for the disabled, including individuals with autism, to be outside for therapy as advised by specialists. But it must not be carried out in groups,” he said.
On activities at places of worship, Ismail Sabri said all activities are not allowed during the enforcement of the MCO, including Friday prayers.
He said a total of 1,520 roadblocks and 257,287 checks on vehicles have been made so far.
Over 67,700 members of the police force, military and voluntary corps have been deployed. Roadblocks at toll plazas will be extended to some 114 checkpoints nationwide from 23 checkpoints.
The number of infections rose to 2,626 yesterday with 37 deaths. The government aims to sharply increase coronavirus testing to 16,500 tests daily.
The country is expected to hit a peak of 6,300 to 8,900 cases by mid-April, according to estimates by JPMorgan Chase and Co and the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research.
The Health Ministry has prepared 19,200 additional beds at its training institutes and 600 more at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park in Serdang. It has also stepped up hiring of medical staff to help fight Covid-19.
Ismail Sabri also announced that the price ceiling for face masks have been set at RM1.50, slightly lower than the initial RM2 announced. However, he said the price will be reviewed from time to time.