The Malaysian government on Mon night (16 Mar) announced a nationwide restricted movement order in its efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address said that the order will take effect starting Wed (18 Mar) until the end of this month on 31 Mar.
The order, made under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967, will see tightened border controls by imposing prohibitions on both outbound and inbound travel.
Malaysians are not allowed to travel outside the country throughout the imposition of the order, and citizens who have recently returned from overseas are required to undergo health tests and a 14-day self-quarantine.
Tourists and other foreign visitors will not be allowed to enter Malaysia during the period in which the order takes effect.
All business premises, schools and higher learning institutions, and other forms of premises whether public or private, as well as places of worship are subject to the order and will be required to shut down during the stipulated period.
Exemptions, however, apply to all essential services such as utilities, telecommunications, postal services, transport, broadcasting, financial and banking services, and health services — among several other sectors.
Supermarkets and other businesses selling food supplies will also be exempted from the shutdown requirement during the order.
Muhyiddin in his speech reassured Malaysians that food supplies, daily essentials and healthcare — including face masks — are in “adequate” supply.
“I have instructed the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to monitor the situation pertaining to food supplies and daily essentials throughout the enforcement of the Movement Control Order,” he said.
He added that he will be chairing meetings of a special taskforce for national security, which will meet daily to oversee the COVID-19 situation from time to time.
While Muhyiddin acknowledged that the government’s move may cause difficulties in the daily lives of Malaysians throughout the order period, he said that the move was necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We cannot wait any longer until the situation worsens … Drastic measures such as this restriction of movement of the public must be taken promptly to prevent the proliferation of the epidemic,” he said.
Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in response to the announcement that firms employing Malaysian staff who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily “may have to activate their Business Continuity Plans” in light of the new travel restrictions imposed by Malaysia.
“If they need assistance, they should contact our economic agencies who stand ready to assist,” said Mr Chan in a Facebook post on Mon, adding that the Singapore Government will “continue to stay in touch with our Malaysian counterparts as the situation evolves”.
“Our priority is to ensure that our people and our businesses are able to continue with their lives and their livelihoods,” he added.