Malaysia Eases Virus Curbs on Economy After Costly Lockdown

Malaysia is set to further ease its movement restrictions beginning Wednesday after a month-long lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic cost the country billions of ringgit.

Retail businesses including clothes and cosmetic stores, and antique shops may resume operations, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a televised briefing on Tuesday. Restaurants will be allowed to accept dine-in patrons, while some sectors of the creative industry may also reopen, he added.

“Little by little, the government is taking the approach of easing the economic sector for the sake of those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ismail. The government is focused on relaxing curbs for micro entrepreneurs and those who rely on daily income, he added.

The government will also allow the national football, hockey and takraw leagues to begin quarantine-based training starting Feb. 15, and is making final revisions to a proposal on allowing individual, no-contact sporting activities, said Ismail.

Malaysia imposed a state of emergency and renewed movement curbs last month as it grapples with a wave of new infections that has stretched its health care system to breaking point. The lockdown has cost the economy about 700 million ringgit ($173 million) daily, prompting the government to estimate that this year’s gross domestic product will likely be at the lower end of its 6.5%-7.5% forecast range.

READ: Malaysia Allows More Businesses to Reopen During Lockdown

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said last week that his administration is trying to strike a balance that will protect lives while ensuring that economic activity can continue. The nation registered record-high daily infections each week in January, and reported 24 deaths linked to Covid-19 on Monday, an all-time high.

Malaysia added 2,764 new cases on Tuesday, the smallest daily count since Jan. 11.

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