Deputy sports minister defends ban on outdoor sports during MCO 3.0 amid criticism

·3-min read
A view of people jogging at the Titiwangsa lake park in Kuala Lumpur. WHO’s Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman called on the government to allow members of the public to participate in outdoor sports. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A view of people jogging at the Titiwangsa lake park in Kuala Lumpur. WHO’s Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman called on the government to allow members of the public to participate in outdoor sports. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal defended the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government's decision to bar outdoor exercise for areas under the third movement control order (MCO).

“Evaluation has been made by @KKMPutrajaya and @MKNJPM. As sports enthusiasts of course we are saddened by this restriction but I’m pretty sure KKM and MKN have deployed all necessary scientific tools and dataset before arriving at this decision. Hopefully things will get better,” he tweeted referring the acronyms to the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the National Security Council (NSC),” he tweeted.

Wan Ahmad was responding to a Twitter user who criticised the decision, and called on the government to “follow the science”.

“Come on, YB. Follow the science. Negligible risk of Covid transmission for outdoor individual exercise. It's been 17 months since the start of the pandemic, we know what's safe and what's not,” Harris Zainul tweeted.

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One of the nation's foremost infectious diseases experts and member of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Science Council, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman also called on the government to allow members of the public to participate in outdoor sports.

“The risk of getting Covid-19 outdoors is about 18 times lower than indoors. Please let the rakyat continue to jog, cycle, play football or any other outdoor sports for the sake of our physical and mental health,” she said.

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News portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) yesterday reported the president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Malaysia (FPMPAM) as saying that NSC's decision “makes no sense”.

Dr Steven Chow reportedly asked the government to show evidence to justify its decision, that exercising in open spaces while adhering to Covid-19 SOPs, is responsible for the spread of the virus.

“It is irrational to blindly pursue a ‘duduk di rumah’ (sit at home) approach at this stage. This is detrimental to the physical and mental health of the people. Outdoor family-centred activities should be encouraged,” he said.

Effective today, gyms and other sporting facilities in districts under the MCO must temporarily suspend operations, the KBS announced yesterday.

In a statement, the ministry said this was decided at the NSC meeting that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chaired yesterday.

KBS said that for areas under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) and the recovery movement control order (RMCO), the standard operating procedures (SOPs) remain the same as the sports and recreation sector SOPs which was updated on April 1.

On Tuesday, the government announced that the third MCO would be enforced in the six Selangor districts of Hulu Langat, Petaling, Gombak, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

A day later, the government announced the MCO would also be enforced in Kuala Lumpur, after its perplexing omission from the partial lockdown imposed on all the Selangor districts surrounding it.

Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement that the NSC decided this after considering the emergence of 17 Covid-19 clusters in Kuala Lumpur over the past week.

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