As Malaysia entered the fourth phase of its movement control order (MCO) on Wednesday (29 April), the government has relaxed some of its restrictions on individuals and essential businesses.
Under a new federal gazette, two family members are now allowed to leave the house together to purchase food, medicine, dietary supplement, daily necessities or any other goods from any provider of essential services during this period.
A person travelling for the purpose of obtaining healthcare services may also be accompanied by another — regardless of their relationship.
Two persons travelling together to buy essentials and/or to seek medical care are prohibited from travelling beyond 10km to do so unless such goods and services are not available within the stipulated radius.
Despite the easing of restrictions, police roadblocks are still actively being instated, as observed by TOC at Jalan Ampang — a major road in central Kuala Lumpur — at 3.16 pm on Thursday (30 April).
A separate lane was set up for vehicles transporting Health Ministry personnel, ambulance and emergency services, police and military officers, firefighters, the media and food supplies.
A second roadblock was seen in place near the landmark Petronas Twin Towers in the centre of the Malaysian capital city, with a police truck passing through as seen below.
Most businesses — save supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as restaurants and other F&B outlets doing take away and delivery orders — were still closed in nearby malls such as Suria KLCC, The Shoppes at Four Seasons Place, and Avenue K.
Traffic was still sparse late Thursday afternoon, although less so compared to the previous three phases of the MCO.
Delivery riders such as those working with Grab seen below, however, were frequently seen on the road, as the MCO increased demand for food delivery and even same-day courier services.
Malls, supermarkets enforce strict safe distancing measures, temperature checks
Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, a public health expert from the International Medical University, told New Straits Times that the modified regulations will not necessarily impact the country’s efforts in flattening the curve, as long as people continue practising safe distancing measures, wearing masks and keeping good personal hygiene.
“Surely, you must know your partner well. At home, you are close together (with family members). I see no reason to be concerned. Besides, premises still control crowds,” he said.
One of such premises is Great Eastern Mall, a suburban mall along Jalan Ampang, where red tape is used to mark safe distances between patrons.
Notices prohibiting overcrowding of lifts were also spotted outside and inside the lifts. Tape was used to mark positions in which patrons are required to stand inside its lifts.
Starbucks Coffee — one of the few businesses allowed to run in the mall, being a food and beverage outlet — implemented similar safe distancing markers on its premises.
Subway and BMS Organics are also among the few businesses allowed to operate at the mall during the MCO period for delivery and takeaway.
Dine-in orders are strictly prohibited, as indicated by the arrangement of chairs in front of Subway below.
Safe distancing markers were also seen outside and inside the Cold Storage supermarket at Great Eastern Mall.
Patrons and staff members alike wore masks and used hand sanitiser when entering and exiting the supermarket. A couple of customers were even seen wearing disposable gloves.
Customers were also made to undergo temperature checks before entering the supermarket.
A 17-year-old living in Cheras, however, said that shoppers at a local supermarket in front of her residence had failed to observe safe distancing measures.
This was despite the presence of “bright yellow tape” on the floor marking the lines behind which patrons should stand, she told TOC on Friday (1 May).
Two may go out together to buy groceries, but only one should do the shopping, says senior minister
Senior Minister of Defence and Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a press conference on Thursday said that while the new regulations permit two immediate family members to commute together to buy essentials, only one of them should do the shopping to avoid long queues on the premises.
“What we suggest is that only one person does the shopping even though two people are allowed to go out.
“Maybe the husband can wait in the car while the wife shops for necessary items,” he added.
Touching on why the government had suddenly decided to change the MCO’s standard operating procedure (SOP), Ismail Sabri said that “there were complaints from the public saying that they have parking problems”.
“There are cases where the wives are working but don’t know how to drive and the husbands need to send them to work.
“These are among some of the issues … After considering the issues and looking at the cases of COVID-19, which is now gradually decreasing, we decided to allow this flexible measure,” he said.
The changes were made not long after federal police announced that it was investigating Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid, the daughter of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for allegedly violating MCO regulations.
Nurulhidayah’s Instagram posts regarding her visit to two Cabinet ministers and doing grocery shopping at a Tesco outlet with her husband during MCO sparked an uproar amongst members of the public.
Many questioned the authorities as to why she appeared to be exempt from the stiff fines and jail terms slapped against many others who had breached the MCO.
Police investigating the most mysterious mystery of did Nurul Zahid Komedi break MCO after she:
1) broke MCO a few times by going to Putrajaya/shopping,
2) used her phone while driving,
3) posted images/videos of them online as evidence and
4) challenged folks to take action. https://t.co/ELb8vlqXGc
— esKahn™ (@esKahn) April 25, 2020
It has been 7 days since Nurul Zahid breached PKP and still no punishment. Meanwhile, berapa ramai dah kena dok dalam? ?
— 4M30WZING (@4M30W) April 26, 2020
She is a single mother, she has a six year old at home and the police could not show any leniency??? And the politicians just walked away with a fine FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
Genuine question: MKN buat peraturan baru supaya Nurul Zahid ada loophole ke? https://t.co/4CO3MqkeqV
— batcat #StayHome (@aidathecat) April 29, 2020
Honestly, I didn’t know being the daughter of a disgraced ex minister makes you a VVIP@NurulZahid
— Shamsul Kamal (@shamsul__kamal) April 25, 2020
Huzir Mohamed, the federal police’s Criminal Investigation Department director, said on 25 April that “an investigation paper has been opened over the alleged MCO violations” by Nurulhidayah and her husband.
The investigation, said Huzir, was opened under Section 269 of the Penal Code, which pertains to negligent acts likely to cause the spread of a dangerous disease and Regulation 3(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Infected Local Areas).
He added that Nurulhidayah’s case will be referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
The first offence is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine while the second provides for a maximum RM1,000 fine, up to six months’ imprisonment, or both upon conviction.
As of Thursday, Malaysia has recorded 6,002 COVID-19 cases in total. 4,171 have recovered, while 102 have died as a result of the virus.
57 new cases were recorded on Thursday, with 25 of such cases being imported cases. 84 were discharged, while 2 new fatalities were recorded yesterday.