Malaysia Allows Some Businesses to Return to Full Production

BenarNews staff
Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta
200428-SEA-covid-620.jpg A street outside the Pavilion shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur is nearly deserted as Malaysia copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, April 15, 2020.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Malaysian businesses that have been operating on a reduced scale can return to full production starting Wednesday, provided they meet strict requirements for safeguarding workers from the coronavirus, the minister for international trade and industry announced Tuesday.

The move aims to revitalize the supply chain of goods and services in order to meet demand in Malaysia and internationally, Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said.

“Recognizing the urgent need to address the current economic crisis, the government has agreed that the economic sectors that have been allowed to operate … increase their capacity to operate fully and [be] allowed to operate indefinitely according to their industry needs,” he said in a press release.

Azmin warned, however, that those who fail to meet standard procedures for operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic would see their operations terminated and could face court action.

“Attempts to fight COVID-19 have not yet succeeded, but we have managed to flatten the curve to a manageable level. However, we should not be complacent and will continue to do our best to ensure the health and safety of the people,” Azmin said.

While the government’s movement control order through May 12 continues, the Ministry of Health listed a series of procedures that must be met for businesses to continue operations. The order affects the automotive industry, construction projects as well as scientific and technical services, including research and development efforts related to COVID-19.

“Among them are that workers are required to undergo COVID-19 screening, there is enough space provided for workers to do their jobs and there must be no gathering of workers in a confined space,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia’s health director-general said on Tuesday.

“Social distancing must also be observed and companies must make sure that their employees practice proper hygiene by regularly washing their hands using soap or hand sanitizer,” he said.

As Malaysia took a step toward reopening the country for business, neighboring Thailand announced it was extending the national COVID-19 emergency.

The Thai government on Tuesday justified its decision to extend its national coronavirus emergency through the end of May, saying the measure to restrict movement was still needed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“We still can’t rest assured and live a normal life. The only way we can return to a normal life is if we have a vaccine or effective medicine, but we don’t,” said Taweesilp Wissanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force. “We need to be keep serious control and keep the figures low for 14 more days.”

The extension allows the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to maintain a late- night curfew, restrict domestic travel, prohibit public gatherings and ban non-resident foreigners from entering Thailand.

Bangkok Gov. Assawin Kwanmuang, meanwhile, said his administration was considering reopening restaurants, markets and salons while maintaining social distancing rules in the capital city.

The announcements drew a mixed reaction from one woman.

“I agree with the emergency extension because we need to completely get rid of the coronavirus, particularly before we welcome back tourists,” Kwannapat Hopinyochinda, a Bangkok beauty salon employee told BenarNews. “And the news from the Bangkok administration is very welcome because I have to make a living.”

Elsewhere, a group representing lawmakers from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called on governments and companies across the region to do more to keep workers healthy and safe amid the pandemic, as it marked international Workers’ Memorial Day.

“Every day millions of workers in Southeast Asia are going to work so that our countries keep running, but many are being forced to do so in dangerous conditions that put them at risk of contracting or spreading the virus,” said Chamnan Chanruang, a former Thai MP, in a statement issued by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

“ASEAN governments must work with employers across all sectors to immediately step up action to make sure that everyone’s right to healthy and safe conditions at work are respected: if these workers are not protected, no one is.”

Indonesia death toll

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the government reported on Tuesday that the nationwide death toll from the pandemic stood at 773, as Reuters news service reported exclusively that another 2,212 Indonesians had died with acute symptoms of COVID-19 but were not included in the government’s official count.

The news service said it reached its conclusion based on its survey data from 16 of the country’s 34 provinces, along with figures supplied by clinics and hospitals along with officials who oversee burial protocols in those provinces.

Achmad Yurianto, spokesman for the national COVID-19 task force, could not be immediately reached by BenarNews for comment on the report, but a member of the task force, Wiku Adisasmito, told Reuters he did not dispute its findings.

Reporting on the government figures on Tuesday, Achmad said nearly half (351) of the 773 who died of COVID-19 complications were between the ages of 30 and 59, while those between the ages of 60 and 79 accounted for another 301 deaths.

On Monday, COVID-19 task force chairman Doni Monardo told Indonesians that if they obeyed restrictions imposed by the government, their lives could return to normal by July.

“The president has asked all of us to work harder and the authorities to be more assertive [in enforcing restrictions],” Doni told reporters.

Indonesia confirmed eight new deaths and 415 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, taking the number of confirmed cases to 9,511, Achmad said. Thai officials reported seven new cases Tuesday, the lowest since mid-March, along with two deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 2,938 and deaths to 54.

Malaysia recorded a new low of 31 new cases and one death on Tuesday, bringing those totals to 5,851 and 100, respectively. 

Malaysia’s health director-general credited the nation’s ongoing movement control order with containing the spread.

“This achievement is a result of the proactive and aggressive measures by the government in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic before and during the MCO,” Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

Globally, nearly 3.1 million have been infected by COVID-19 and more than 215,000 have died, according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur, Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwet in Bangkok and Ronna Nirmala in Jakarta contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.