KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Just a day before the Malaysian government is set to allow a majority of businesses and activities to resume tomorrow in a conditional relaxing of the movement control order (MCO) restrictions, more than 420,000 have signed an online petition to urge the government to cancel this decision.

Even this morning, at least hundreds or even thousands more individuals have been signing the online petition at Change.org, with more signatures added on by the minute. At the time of writing, 423,582 signatures have been collected for the petition.

This petition titled Teruskan PKP. Batalkan PKP Bersyarat (Continue MCO. Cancel conditional MCO) was started two days ago by Rakyat Malaysia Prihatin, or on Friday (May 1) after the prime minister announced the conditional lifting of MCO restrictions from May 4 (tomorrow) onwards.

In a brief five-point petition in the Malay language to the Malaysian government, the petition urged the government to immediately cancel the conditional MCO and to continue the MCO, saying that it did not want Malaysia to experience the same mistake of other countries who cancelled or relaxed their own MCOs.

The petition also told the Malaysian government that Malaysians did not want to see the Covid-19 frontliners be tired again, and did not want the government to bow down to capitalists who prioritise profits alone without thinking of their employees' health and welfare, while also saying that Malaysians can continue with the MCO for the sake of the country's future.

Based on news reports such as by The Star and The Straits Times, the signatures grew to 133,000 signatures by yesterday afternoon or less than 24 hours after the petition was initiated, and to more than 340,000 signatures by yesterday evening.

This petition is just one of the many other online petitions on Change.org with similar pleas to the Malaysian government to continue imposing the MCO restrictions instead of relaxing them, but also seems to be the most popular petitions.

The other online petitions on Change.org reflect a mix of opinions among Malaysians, including those who urged against the relaxing of MCO restrictions on May 4, those who questioned the rush to reopen businesses on May 4 simultaneously instead of providing a period of preparations since the MCO is still in place until May 12, and those who proposed a gradual reopening of businesses on alternate days or times or according to number of cases in areas.

The petitions aired fears that Malaysia would repeat the mistake of other countries that have since seen resurgence in Covid-19 cases after lifting their own restrictions.

Some of these petitions were only started a day ago, or just a day after the government’s Friday announcement of the conditional MCO.

Other petitions have even urged for the MCO to be extended past May 12 until assurance is given that the Covid-19 situation in the country is in control, with one petition even urging for an MCO until the country is fully safe from Covid-19.

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, special advisor to the prime minister on public health, has however noted that the MCO is not to end Covid-19, but to flatten the curve as Malaysia has successfully done.

Both Dr Jemilah and senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that Malaysia’s situation is different from Hokkaido in Japan, as Malaysia is protecting its borders.

Hokkaido, situated in Japan's northern region, experienced an increase of 135 infections within a week, after ending its lockdown on March 19 when infection rates at the time had dropped to a single digit.

The prefectural government has since declared a state of emergency. Hokkaido Medical Association chairman Dr Kiyoshi Nagase was reported as expressing his regret at the early lifting of the lockdown.

Senior minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has defended the government’s decision to allow most businesses to reopen tomorrow (May 4).

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz have indicated that companies need not rush into reopening on May 4 but can take the time to do the necessary preparations and ready themselves to resume operations.