MOH warns against relaxing MCO restrictions in phase three, moots delay to barbers reopening

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged for operations of certain sectors, such as barbers, to be postponed first in the next one week until data confirms that the country has recovered. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged for operations of certain sectors, such as barbers, to be postponed first in the next one week until data confirms that the country has recovered. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, April 11 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) said today measures taken in the first and second phase of the movement control order (MCO) should be maintained, and any move to loosen it should be delayed for now.

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged for operations of certain sectors, such as barbers, to be postponed first in the next one week until data confirms that the country has recovered.

“I am quite sure that many Malaysians are affected by the first and second phases of the MCO, but what is important is that we are all battling Covid-19 and we have yet to win,” he said in his daily briefing.

“The measures we have taken have been pivotal and we are seeing signs of success in reducing the number of cases.”

The success stemmed from swift action by the authorities to tighten borders, restrict movement, prohibiting large gatherings, and practicing social distancing.

Dr Noor Hisham said there is no reason to stop the measures now, but instead suggested that they remain in place in the third phase of the MCO, which starts April 15 and ends on April 28.

“So if we look at all the actions [that led to the success], we should actually retain the same strictness in the third phase,” he said.

“And any exit strategy or planning for restrictions in the third phase, the ministry recommends that we continue with the measures from phase one and two.”

He then said the government may plan the exit strategy in the next two weeks, but it is best to delay implementing it “for the time being.”

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry said yesterday selected industries will be allowed to reopen but in stages, including for barbers.

The announcement was met with widespread criticism, with several states such as Penang, Melaka, Negri Sembilan and Sarawak refusing permissions for barbershops to reopen.

Dr Noor Hisham, when asked to comment on the proposal, did not respond directly.

Instead the Health D-G reiterated his call for the public to observe the stay-at-home order, saying the move is best to reduce infections within the community.

“What is important is our ability to reduce transmission within the community,” he said.

The Malaysian Hairdressing Association (MHA) said in a statement issued this evening that 91 per cent of its members did not agree to resume their businesses during the MCO period, citing safety issues, among others.

The group had polled its members’ response after Putrajaya relaxed restrictions on several sectors following the extended MCO, including barbershops and hairdressers.

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