Malaysia to Let Economic Activity Resume, Partly Easing Lockdown

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia will let nearly all economic activities resume as it enters a partially eased lockdown starting May 4.

The government will enforce guidelines for companies to ensure there are no large gatherings and people take precautions to reduce risk of infections, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address. Even so, companies are encouraged to let employees work from home if possible and to consider their childcare obligations, he said.

Schools will remain shut, mass gatherings at religious and sports events aren’t allowed, and Malaysians can’t freely travel across states even during the Eid-al Fitr holiday, Muhyiddin said.

The moves see Malaysia joining a wave of countries relaxing confinement measures that has hammered global growth. Neighboring Vietnam called off its stay-at-home order for most of the country last week. Elsewhere, Italy will start easing its two-month lockdown Monday while Britain has pledged a “comprehensive plan” to lift the lockdown. U.S. states have diverged: Texan malls, restaurants and movie theaters could re-open Friday, but California is battling to enforce its lockdown.

Malaysia’s daily increase in new coronavirus cases has eased, remaining below 100 for the last two weeks, despite a spike on Wednesday due to imported cases. The country imposed sweeping restrictions on people’s movement on March 18, ordering businesses to shut and later imposing curfews. The lockdown was recently extended to May 12.

The relaxed restrictions on business activities would support the economy, which the central bank expected to contract as much as 2% or grow 0.5% if the lockdown had been lifted in mid-April. The government estimates 2.4 billion ringgit ($558 million) of losses for every day the strict lockdown remains in place.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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