Surprise, surprise! The government has announced that the Movement Control Order (MCO) will be extended by two more weeks (till 28 April 2020).
Considering that our Health Director General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had repeatedly said there's a possibility of jump in COVID-19 cases in mid-April because of the return of Malaysians from overseas and the number of new cases remaining above 100 per day, this news comes as no surprise to most of us.
The announcement of the extension was made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during a press conference aired live on social media.
"...based on the advice from the Health Ministry and medical experts, the government has decided to extend the Movement Control Order by two week, which is from 15 April to 28 April 2020.
"The extension is done to give space for the health care professionals to fight the spread of COVID-19, besides avoiding the recurrence of the spread of the virus among the people," Muhyiddin said during his speech.
The prime minister also thanked doctors and nurses; the police, army, Bomba, RELA, immigration and other departments; the kind-hearted Malaysians who have been providing food for the frontliners; riders and Malaysians in general.
"Anda manusia yang hebat (you are a great human being)," he said.
"In short, we are like a large family. We help each other through difficult times. We take care of our family. We take care of us (kita jaga kita). We take care of our community. Whether we are in the villages, housing areas, condominiums, flats. We take care of us. This is the reality of the relationship between Malaysians no matter the race," the prime minister said.
We're at a good place when it comes to keeping COVID-19 at bay
The extension of MCO does not indicate that the country is not dealing with the pandemic well.
In fact, we're doing better than most.
According to the prime minister, positive cases of COVID-19 in the country is at 7%, below the benchmark of 10% by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The death rate of patients is also lower than the average of 5.8% worldwide. The death rate in Malaysia is at 1.6% now.
So far, the recovery rate of patients is also high - at 43%, with more undergoing treatment.
Since MCO was announced, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has not seen huge spikes. In fact, we can see that the number are beginning to decline.
Today (10 April), the number of recovery is 220, more than the number of new cases which is 118.
"However, we cannot take the current situation lightly. The spread of the virus is still at the mid stages and needs preventive measures.
"In fact, the efforts to prevent the virus from spreading must be increased to break the chain of infection. This includes paying extra attention to cluster groups that has been identified as the cause of the disease," Muhyiddin said.
The prime minister also said the move to extend the MCO is in line with WHO's recommendation for countries to not remove restriction or lockdown orders too soon.
"Like what has happened in several countries, the spread of the disease increases again when restrictive movement orders were lifted," he said, adding that we should be prepared for further extension of MCO - by months even.
Some businesses will be allowed to reopen
The prime minister also announced that in light of the economic impact of the temporary closure of businesses during the MCO period, the government has decided to allow selected businesses to reopen in stages with strict guidelines.
"A special cabinet committee chaired by senior minister from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and senior minister from the Defense Ministry will be formed to look into the list of economic sectors that will be selected to reopen in stages.
"I would like to stress that the opening of these limited sectors does not mean the loosening of MCO. The order is still in place and all the instructions by the authorities must be obeyed," he said.
Muhyiddin added that companies that does not follow the guidelines given by the government will lose their licenses.
The list of industries that will be allowed to operate will be announced soon.
Hang in there and be prepared for the 'new' normal
We have to admit, it's not going to be easy as cabin fever is already beginning to set in but we've survived almost a month now, we can do two more weeks.
As the prime minister said, even after MCO, we have to learn to adapt to a 'new' normal.
"Let me remind you that the war on COVID-19 is not yet over. The fight is still on. We are doing well so far, so just uplift your spirit and continue to fight. If we persevere, insyaAllah we will win, " he said.
The country's premier also reminded everyone to continue practicing good hygiene.
He gave the example of shaking hands, which is a norm before COVID-19 but can no longer be so. At least not in the near future.