Interactive: How Malaysia and other countries are easing their Covid-19 restrictions

People separated by painted partitions to observe distancing while resting at Mytown shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur. — Chan Tak Kong/The Star

PETALING JAYA: More than half of the world's countries - including Malaysia - have eased lockdown restrictions that have been put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, according to data from Oxford’s Blatavnik School of Government.

Out of the 117 countries which have rolled back on these curbs, Malaysia is the 18th most rigid in lifting regulations despite allowing most business sectors to reopen under its conditional movement control order beginning May 4.

Schools have yet to reopen and people are advised to continue staying home, while restrictions remain on mass gatherings, and interstate and overseas travel.

Data on government responses to Covid-19 are recorded in the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT).

READ ALSO > Covid-19: Total cases so far (updated daily)

It collects publicly available information on 17 indicators, where nine of them are used to measure the stringency index of 169 countries. A higher stringency index of up to 100 indicates stricter measures.

This includes regulations on containment, closure and health system policies such as school and workplace closures, movement restrictions and public information campaigns.

“Using a novel index that combines various measures of government responses, we describe variation in government responses, explore whether rising stringency of response affects the rate of infection, and identify correlates of more or less stringent responses, ” it says.

Restrictions worldwide were most stringent roughly between mid-March to mid-April, while the easing of restrictions is ongoing starting from end-April.

Malaysia enforced the MCO from March 18. This was followed by a conditional MCO from May 4 which permitted certain economic and social activities to resume.

The conditional MCO has since been extended for four weeks from May 13 to June 9.

Malaysia's stringency index slightly decreased by 5.3% from 73.15 during the MCO to 69.44 since the start of the conditional MCO.

New Zealand, which imposed a strict national lockdown on March 26, had the biggest drop in stringency index (-60.19) as it gradually lifted its lockdown.

Its citizens, who were previously instructed to stay at home while businesses and schools closed, are now able to join gatherings of 100 attendees, travel domestically, reopen businesses and go shopping with specific public health guidelines in place.

The country has no new cases over the past six days, with only one remaining active Covid-19 case.

Other countries with the greatest relaxations include Croatia (-53.71), Serbia (-50.93), Slovenia (47.68), South Korea (-47.68), Djibouti (-42.6) and Aruba (-40.74).

Out of the 169 countries, 52 other countries have maintained or reinforced its restrictions.

With the easing of restrictions, the OxCGRT also estimated countries’ readiness to exit lockdown by looking into how close they meet four out of six criteria outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On May 29, the OxCGRT reported Malaysia as being close to meeting three out of the four measures, with a score of 0.6 out of the overall 1.

The country met most of the criteria for managing the risk of exporting and importing Covid-19 cases, having a public information campaign on Covid-19, as well as having testing and contact tracing policy for Covid-19 cases.

However, it did not meet the condition of having less than 50 daily new cases and a growth rate which is lower than the previous week.

New Zealand came closest to meeting all four of the WHO recommendations with an overall score of 1, while 8 other countries such as Spain, Rwanda, Vietnam and Australia followed closely behind with an overall score of 0.9 each.

While most countries are easing restrictions, Morocco, Egypt and Iceland have maintained restrictions in its country since late March, lasting for more than 60 days to date.

As of May 28, Cuba, Kuwait, El Salvador, and Hondorus are countries with the strictest regulations with stringency index of 100 each.

Meanwhile, countries with the least restrictions are Nicaragua (11.11), Belarus (13.89), Taiwan (22.22) and Burundi (22.22).

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