Asia

Stricter Covid-19 lockdown keeps Malaysia's Klang Valley quiet even without massive enforcement

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s strictest Covid-19 restrictions came into effect on Saturday (July 3) in most of the Klang Valley, an area of more than eight million people. 

But tough measures seen in the past such as barbed-wire fences and armed military presence to ensure strict enforcement were absent.

Instead, residents in all but one of nine districts in Selangor and 14 locations in Kuala Lumpur have been able to leave their homes to buy essential items and attend to medical matters, including vaccinations against the deadly coronavirus.

This is despite Kuala Lumpur police saying that the armed forces would be called in to install barbed-wire fences in the 14 areas during the fortnight under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO).

“They told us we can’t go anywhere this weekend because everyone will be tested first. But this morning, there were times when the police tent set up outside the guardhouse wasn’t even manned. Some residents have been going in and out without any checks,” said administrative manager Kelly Lim, 39, who lives in a low-cost flat within view of the capital’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers, on Saturday.

However, The Star daily reported that in nearby Wangsa Maju, the military was waiting for barbed wire to arrive for installation.

Previously, suburbs and high-rise residential buildings put on EMCO were guarded under lock and key, and residents were allowed out only for blanket swab tests.

But Selangor police have clarified that they will increase the number of roadblocks and spot checks instead, as cordoning off entire districts was not feasible.

“We will also conduct mobile roadblocks at strategic locations,” said Selangor police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed, adding that 80 per cent of the state’s 14,000-strong police force would be deployed to enforce EMCO rules.

Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said on Friday that drones and helicopters would be deployed instead, to monitor compliance with movement restrictions.

Checks by The Straits Times on Saturday showed few people out and about in Selangor, with most workplaces also shut for the weekend.

Several markets saw long queues on Friday, as families rushed to stock up before the two-week EMCO. Online grocery delivery platforms were also fully booked.

The government announced the latest measures in a bid to curb the worst wave of the pandemic that has seen total deaths more than triple to over 5,300 in the past two months.

There are more than 770,000 cases of Covid-19 nationwide, after another 6,658 were recorded on Saturday.

Malaysia’s richest and most populous state of Selangor and its capital city have contributed more than half of new cases in recent weeks, with infections nationwide persisting above 4,000 daily for most of the past two months.

This is despite tightened restrictions, including a nationwide lockdown that began on June 1.

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But Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Saturday that criteria for the loosening of restrictions will now be considered on a state-by-state basis, instead of aggregating across the country.

Five states – Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak and Perlis – will see restrictions eased on July 5 as their caseloads have reduced.

Under the National Recovery Plan unveiled last month, Malaysia will transition to phase two of the lockdown only when average cases fall below 4,000, vaccinations surpass 10 per cent and the strain on hospitals drops to moderate levels.

However, after transmission levels dropped below 1.0 for most of last month – meaning less than one new patient was being infected for every existing case – the reproduction rate began surging above the benchmark level again this week to a high of 1.07 on Friday.

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