KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Hair salons and shopping malls reopened, traffic jams returned and interstate travel resumed in Malaysia on Wednesday in a further easing of coronavirus restrictions to revive an economy hard hit by the pandemic.
In the capital Kuala Lumpur, customers queued for temperature checks at malls while shop staff added the finishing touches to window displays.
Barber shops and beauty salons were reopening to customers after having to remain shut for nearly three months.
“Thank God the government decided to ease movement control order restrictions, so we can go out and get our hair cut and become handsome again,” joked Abdul Rahman Mohamed after his trim. “Before we looked terrible.”
Malaysia confirmed two new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the lowest number since restrictions were imposed, taking the total number of cases to 8,338, including 118 fatalities.
“I’m happy to work again because for almost two months, we didn’t get any sales,” said salon owner Wong Lee Ting.
“Customers were always calling asking, ‘when can you open? Because it’s been long.'”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Sunday the pandemic had been successfully brought under control and that Malaysia would enter a new recovery period until Aug. 31, followed by a normalisation phase until a vaccine is ready.
However, international borders will remain closed for now, as will entertainment venues such as nightclubs and theme parks. Contact sports and gatherings remain banned.
Malaysia’s education minister said on Wednesday schools would reopen in stages from June 24, while a senior health official said travel agreements may be sought with “green bubble” countries such as Singapore, Brunei and Thailand, where infection rates are manageable.
Shopper Nik Muhammad Shafik was enjoying his return to freedom but hoped people would follow health protocols including social distancing.
“We’re happy that the whole family can go out but at the same time, worried because of the easing of the movement control order, so a lot of people are out,” he said.
(Reporting by Ebrahim Harris; Additional reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Gareth Jones)