KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — The government made a puzzling decision today to expand the maximum attendance of Friday prayer congregations to one-third capacity in green and yellow zones in the Federal Territories, effective tomorrow, despite only a single yellow district and no green ones.
According to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 14-day moving chart, only Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur is yellow, reporting 18 new local Covid-19 cases within the past 14 days as of today; notching up just three more infections would push it to orange. The remaining districts in the capital city — Cheras, Kepong, and Titiwangsa — are red.
Putrajaya is orange with 22 new local Covid-19 cases reported in the past 14 days. Labuan is battling a serious coronavirus outbreak, reporting 586 local Covid-19 cases within the past fortnight.
All three federal territories — Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan — are also under a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). The CMCO in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Selangor is due to end on November 9, while movement restrictions in Labuan have been extended to November 13.
“The number of participants in Friday prayer congregations has been increased to one-third of the capacity of the main prayer hall in mosques and surau for green and yellow zones in the Federal Territories.
“For the five daily prayers in green and yellow zones, the permitted capacity is not more than 30 congregants, subject to the space of the main prayer hall in mosques and surau, with a 1-metre distance between congregants,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said in a statement today.
He added that Friday prayer congregations in Labuan, which is in the red, will be limited to 12 people and daily prayer congregations to three people. This arrangement will also be implemented in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya if there are red zones in those federal territories.
As for solemnisation ceremonies in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan, guests are limited to 30 people, with 1-metre social distancing, and subject to the space of the premises set by the Federal Territories Religious Department (JAWI). These premises comprise religious offices and selected mosques set by JAWI. Photographers are also allowed and not included in the 30-pax limit.
All of these new guidelines in the Federal Territories are effective from November 6, with Zulkifli urging other state religious departments to follow suit, as these standard operating procedures (SOPs) were set in a November 2 special meeting of the Jawatankuasa Muzakarah Majlis Kebangsaan Bagi Hal Ehwal Ugama Islam Malaysia (MKI).
The minister claimed no Covid-19 cases have been reported recently in mosques or surau throughout the country, saying: “SOP compliance in mosques and surau is also excellent.”
Zulkifli also suggested reopening surau in Rest-and-Relax (RnR) stops and in shopping centres in green and yellow zones in the Federal Territories.
“Besides that, I also want to suggest that mosques and surau in green and yellow zones prepare a special prayer space for food delivery riders and e-hailing drivers.”
The Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia shows no signs of abating, with MOH projecting yesterday more than 6,000 new infections nationwide in the next one week. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah targeted reducing the Covid-19 infectivity rate, or R0, to 0.5 in another two to three weeks.
MOH reported today 1,009 Covid-19 cases nationwide, the third consecutive day of 24-hour new infections above 1,000 since November 3. There are active clusters in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan, including a new one reported in Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur today, and a new cluster reported yesterday in Putrajaya.
According to CodeBlue’s calculations, the average daily new Covid-19 cases in the Klang Valley in the past three weeks from October 10 have risen from 83 infections in the week of October 10 to 16; to about 129 cases in the week of October 17 to 23; and increasing further to about 137 cases in the week of October 24 to 30.