After seven weeks of being told by authorities to “dudak rumah,” or stay at home, Malaysians tentatively resumed some aspects of pre-coronavirus life on Monday.
Some businesses reopened and restaurants were allowed to cater to in-house diners seated at a distance.
In Kuala Lumpur, a usually heaving city of 8 million people, traffic and footfall were far below pre-lockdown levels on Monday morning – after a weekend of nationwide debate about whether the partial lifting of restrictions was premature.
Asked why his outlet was still only serving takeaway, a waiter at a Kuala Lumpur restaurant, who asked not to be identified, said: “We’re concerned about the health aspect and we’re not fully ready yet.”
Malaysia has confirmed 6,298 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and 105 related deaths, with 4,413 of the cases listed as recovered by the Health Ministry.
The ten days up to Friday saw new daily cases drop to an average of 57, prompting the ministry to contend that Malaysia was “recovering” from the pandemic.
On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that some curbs would be lifted – a surprise announcement that came only 8 days after he extended the lockdown to May 12.
The government said Malaysia’s economy is contracting due to the lockdown, with the central bank predicting a recession.
Ng Chee Lim, a taxi driver, said he was glad the restrictions had been loosened, adding: “I think the situation is under control, and we need to get the economy going again.”
A petition against curbs being lifted had been signed by almost half a million people by Sunday, when several regional administrations announced they would opt out of the relaxation.