Malaysia Significantly Eases Lockdown with Conditional MCO from May 4

PM Muhuyiddin addresses the country at a 11am speech on Labour Day | Image Credit: Bernama/RTM
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In a bid to relieve the increasing economic pressure being applied to the country by the prolonged Movement Control Order, which was implemented on March 18 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Friday morning that most sectors would be able to resume operations on Monday, May 4. He outlined a number of conditions and guidelines for various sectors in his address.

In the special Labour Day address, Muhyiddin said that almost all businesses would be permitted to resume operations, subject to conditions and standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as cleaning and sanitizing common areas of businesses.

So What Will Be Allowed Now?

Nearly all businesses will be allowed to resume operations on May 4. The short notice and rushed provision of SOPs to various business sectors may cause some confusion, but there is no mandate that all businesses must resume on Monday, only that they are now able to do so.

Patrons will be allowed to dine in restaurants, though tables must be placed two metres apart, and the number of people at any one table is restricted (to be advised, based on table size). Hand sanitizer must be provided, and outlets will be required to record the names and contacts of their customers, for contact tracing purposes in the event of an infection being linked to the restaurant. Workers must wear masks, and patrons must be temperature-screened upon entry.

Outdoor exercising is permitted, as are non-contact, non-group sports (such as badminton). Group sports, however, such as football, hockey, and rugby, are not allowed. Swimming is not permitted.

A full list of what is still prohibited is at the end of this article, but importantly, for the time being, all mass gatherings and social businesses involving crowds, including sports, nightclubs, cinemas, bazaars, and exhibitions, continue to not be allowed.

Interstate travel is also banned, with exceptions made for work. And no balik kampung this year: members of the public are prohibited from travelling across state lines to return to their hometowns for Hari Raya.

Muhyiddin also urged employers to continue allowing staff to work from home and to alternate days of operation, if possible. Husbands and wives were also encouraged to go to their respective offices on different days.

A Roll of the Dice

This is a fairly big gamble on Malaysia’s part, though it’s always been clear that a nationwide lockdown couldn’t be maintained indefinitely. Many countries have found it extremely difficult to strike a workable balance between public health and economic survival. Some have done well, others have been much less fortunate. It’s likely that, given Malaysia’s relative success in curbing the spread of the pandemic in the country so far, many eyes will be watching to see how this “conditional MCO” plays out.

Public health experts and medical professionals are already speaking out, however, voicing concerns about the extensive relaxation of MCO measures and the short notice for the change, warning it will cause confusing and more than a little non-compliance. One local public health official noted the government’s abrupt departure from the current MCO, saying that it would have been better had the announcement been made after May 12, or at least for the actual relaxed measures to have been implemented only following the latest extension of the MCO, which was scheduled to end on May 12. The fear is that such a widespread easing of measures (that have by all accounts been working) could lead to a new wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, and we’ll be looking at another MCO exercise in several weeks or months.


Obviously there is a lot of hope that the people of Malaysia will continue self-policing and practising good habits that help curb the spread of the coronavirus, e.g., not leaving the house unless necessary, avoiding groups, practising physical distancing in public, washing hands often, and wearing face masks when in public.

What Is Still Prohibited?

This is the current list of business and activities which are still not permitted under the conditional MCO. Note that the government may revise this list as necessary.

1. Entertainment and leisure

  • Movie theatres
  • Karaoke centres
  • Theme parks
  • Museums
  • Busking

2. Celebrations, processions, and gatherings

  • Religious processions
  • Congregational activities at mosques and places of worship
  • Processions by security forces
  • Hari Raya celebrations, except with close family members

3. Conferences and exhibitions

  • Job fairs
  • Wedding fairs
  • Travel fairs
  • Sales carnivals
  • All conference involving large gatherings

4. Education

  • Sports during school sessions
  • Co-curricular activities involving gatherings
  • Any form of school assemblies
  • Any form of events involving more than 10 people

5. Sports

  • Sporting events involving many spectators
  • All indoor sports, including gymnasiums
  • Swimming
  • Contact sports, including football and basketball

6. Social activities

  • All ‘kenduri’ (feasts)
  • Weddings or anniversaries

7. Transport

  • Cruise ships

8. Food or market stalls

  • Ramadan bazaars
  • Hari Raya bazaars

9. Workers’ hostel

  • Accepting visitors
  • Socialising and sports in groups
  • Congregational prayers

10. Machine operators

  • Working in groups of more than 10 people

11. Clothing and apparel shops

  • Fitting rooms

12. Laundrettes

  • Folding services

13. Lectures, seminars, courses, and training involving a live audience

14. Certification ceremonies for the agricultural industry

15. Hair salons and beauty parlours

16. Banking sector

  • Sales and marketing activities in public spaces

17. Forest management

  • Ecotourism
  • Training

18. Mining and quarry industries

  • New applications for short-firer tests

19. Agriculture

  • Meet-the-client days
  • Farming supply sales
  • Fruits festival
  • Courses and seminars
  • Convocations for farming institutes

20. Fishing

  • Recreational fishing
  • Activities in marine parks
  • Exhibitions for the aquarium trade

21. Creative industries

  • Filming activities
  • Concerts and activities involving an audience

22. Arts and culture

  • Exhibitions involving artists and visitors

23. Travel and hotels

  • Barred hotel facilities: Surau, gyms, spa, sauna, lounge, swimming pool, seminar halls, training rooms, buffets.

For a comprehensive list of SOPs and FAQs, click here.

More information will be provided here as it becomes available.

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