The Malaysian government’s decision to impose a movement control order starting tomorrow (18 Mar) has sparked panic buying among residents in various parts of the nation.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address yesterday (16 Mar) said that the order will take effect 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.
Social media platforms particularly Twitter, however, were abuzz with photographs of nearly empty supermarket shelves as seen in user @ShafuanZ’s tweet below, depicting empty poultry and meat shelves at a Village Grocer outlet in Kuala Lumpur.
— shafuan zafis (@ShafuanZ) March 17, 2020
A TOC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur yesterday evening found that snaking queues were also seen in one of the Selections Grocers outlets, just a few hours prior to Muhyiddin’s announcement regarding the movement control order.
In the northern Peninsular Malaysia state of Penang, Twitter user @BooSoonYew67 posted photographs of residents at a wet market and urged “fellow Malaysians” not to engage in panic buying, as markets and stores selling essentials “will & must remain open” throughout the movement control order.
Panic buying continues today.. This is the Tesco Extra, Sg Dua Carpark which normally is empty at 9am..
Today sudah macam rebut rebut masuk carpark, keluar carpark..
UNNECESSARY #COVID19 panic in #Malaysia !! #COVID19malaysia pic.twitter.com/2brH11hucK
— Boo Soon Yew (@BooSoonYew67) March 17, 2020
Twitter user @Nuraisyahusna pointed out that a month ago, Malaysians “laughed at” Singaporeans for engaging in panic buying across the Republic’s supermarkets and even across the Causeway.
“But now look at our people,” she said, in response to user @mkhairulazri’s tweets regarding the panic buying situation at a Tesco supermarket outlet in Cheras yesterday.
A month a go we laughed at Singaporean. But now look at our people ????
— Nunaaa???? (@Nuraisyahusna) March 16, 2020
M’sian govt movement control order sparks anxiety among some S’poreans, another round of panic buying observed in several areas such as Toa Payoh and Punggol
The Malaysian government’s movement control order has sparked another round of panic buying in Singapore, as TODAY reported on Tue (17 Mar) long queues at supermarkets such as Giant at Toa Payoh Central and Marine Terrace, NTUC Finest at Bukit Timah Plaza, and Sheng Siong in Punggol.
Eggs, instant noodles, bread, fruit, rice and toilet paper were among the most commonly picked up items, TODAY observed.
Rachel Yeo, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, yesterday tweeted a video showing the presence of throngs of shoppers at FairPrice Finest in Seletar Mall, where queues were “so long even at midnight”.
— Rachel Yeo (@racporter) March 16, 2020
Twitter user @xkixze said that Singaporeans are panic buying again as the Republic relies “heavily on other countries for their staple and workforce from Malaysia”.
Malaysia is locking down their borders tomorrow and now Singaporeans are panic buying because Singapore rely heavily on other countries for their staple and workforce from Malaysia.
— Beeeerz (@xkixze) March 17, 2020
Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, shortly after Muhyiddin’s announcement yesterday, however assured Singaporeans that there will be enough supply for food and other essentials, particularly due to diversified sources and local production of said necessities.
“The Government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC Fairprice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase our stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months. This means that we are not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers.
“In addition to building up our inventory of food and essential supplies, we also have in place a robust multi-pronged strategy that will ensure we do not run out of the essentials we require. For example, we have local production capabilities for products such as noodles, infant milk powder and canned goods among others,” said Mr Chan in a Facebook post yesterday.
“We have also continued to diversify our sources of essential goods, for example we get a good amount of vegetables from China and even go as far as Australia and Spain to secure our supply of eggs,” he added.
Notwithstanding the adequate supply, Mr Chan nonetheless urged Singaporeans to continue buying their groceries “in a responsible manner”.
“Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient,” he said.
Netizens raise concerns on panic buying in S’pore, suggest govt-directed household rationing and allowing households to grow own food
While many netizens thanked Mr Chan for the reassurance, a number of netizens have raised concerns regarding the panic buying spree taking place despite the Minister’s advice.
Household rationing and even penalties for violating the quota were suggested by netizens to combat stockpiling in Singapore. Netizens have also urged the Government to take stricter measures against possible profiteering in certain local supermarket chains.
Several netizens said that Singapore’s food reserves are not the primary cause for concern.
Sectors in Singapore that are heavily reliant on Malaysian labour, such as the automobile servicing industry where there is a large number of Malaysian mechanics, and the security sector where many Malaysians are employed as security guards or auxiliary police, may face difficulties as a result of the movement control order imposed by Malaysia, according to netizens.
One netizen asked Mr Chan if temporary dormitories could be set up to house Malaysian workers in Singapore during the order period.
Several netizens suggested — in the face of land shortage in Singapore — the Government to “allocate more land for vertical farming”, and to allow HDB households to grow their own edible plants where space is available.