COVID-19 Movement Control Order in Malaysia

coronavirus government lockdown
Coronavirus government lockdown
Image adapted from: Wikimedia Commons (right)

Yup, it has finally hit us – after months of being minimally affected by the novel coronavirus, Malaysia now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. With a sharp spike of 566 people and counting, it’s easy to see why people are starting to really panic.

Just yesterday (16 Mar), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Malaysia will be under a Movement Control Order from 18th – 31st March to curb the spread of the virus. 

Some media outlets have hailed this move as a “government lockdown”, and although it sounds hella serious, we need to first understand what exactly this means and why we should remain calm during this time. 

*Update: As of 17th March, the number of confirmed cases have risen to 673.

Firstly, what does a “government lockdown” really mean?

PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin coronavirus government lockdown announcement
Image credit: The Star

A lot of us may be imagining this move to be something out of a zombie apocalypse movie – where we need to nail shutters to our windows and pour medical-grade alcohol all over our front doors and light it on fire to burn the darn virus away. 

But no. Before you start putting chains on your gates, this just means that you are encouraged to stay at home and only go out if necessary. There is technically no “lockdown” happening. I repeat – you can leave the house if you’re starving to death because you’ve depleted your stock of groceries, or, y’know, visit a clinic if you’re feeling unwell. 

Which brings me to my next point…

The government says there’s enough supplies for everyone

Stop. Hoarding. Groceries. 

As seen in Singapore when panic hit after a DORSCON Orange Alert was announced, Malaysians have now started stockpiling groceries, wiping out supermarket shelves of items like toilet paper, instant noodles and even fresh chicken. 

panic buying in Malaysia
Image credit: @mkhairulazri

Even the PM himself has said that there’s sufficient supply of food and health products that are needed to ride out the wave of the virus. Stocking up on food for 1-2 weeks without depleting supermarket shelves is viable, but remember to leave some behind for our fellow countrymen.

Travelling abroad is now barred

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

It’s beyond evident that COVID-19 has spread across at least 140 countries in a short amount of time. This is largely due to people who’ve travelled without much restriction. So it’s understandable why a strict travel advisory has now been implemented. 

Here’s what you need to take note of:

  • Malaysian citizens are officially restricted from travelling overseas*.
  • Citizens who are overseas are allowed to return home, but will need to undergo health checks and be subjected to a 14-day self-quarantine. 
  • Foreigners will not be allowed to enter the country from 18th – 31st March.

*Note: The Ministry of Health and the Immigration Department of Malaysia haven’t specified what constitutes restricted travel just yet, so we’re awaiting more details on this.

Malaysians who travel to Singapore frequently are affected

Johor Bahru causeway
The travel ban starts on 18th March.
Image credit:
Wikimedia Commons

Those living in Johor who travel to Singapore for work or study will not be allowed to do so till 31st March. So if you live in Johor and work in Singapore, you’ll have to look into temporary accommodation in Singapore, take a leave of absence, or request for work from home arrangements with your employer.

Airlines are offering free refunds

If you’ve had to cancel your upcoming holiday due to the new travel restrictions, you may just be able to salvage some of it.

AirAsia announced yesterday (16 Mar) that those who’ve been issued tickets before 7th March, for travel dates till 30th April, will be allowed to make a free 1-time flight date change. Alternatively, you can get a refund in the form of online credits. 

Likewise, Malaysia Airlines travellers are able to rebook their flights or get a refund, depending on the terms and conditions. 

No public gatherings for now

The largest clusters of COVID-19 cases have been from large gatherings as seen in the cases of Singapore’s SAFRA Jurong cluster of 36 cases from 1 dinner event, and Malaysia’s own spike of 243 cases from a religious gathering that hosted about 16,000 attendees.

That said, the government has put a halt to public gatherings that include:

  • Places of worship
  • Sports meets
  • Social and cultural activities
  • Business premises

Likewise, all educational institutions – schools included – are now closed. Some universities like University Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia are even exploring e-learning and online lessons. 

Social distancing

social distancing during coronavirus government lockdown
Stay at least 1-metre away from others

While we’re on the topic of no public gatherings, the Ministry of Health has explained that Malaysians need to practice social distancing. This means reducing close contact with other people and avoiding large gatherings, in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Where you can go

Although we’re encouraged to stay at home, essential services are still up and running. This includes water, electricity, telecommunications, transport and healthcare – so don’t panic just yet. 

Additionally, supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores remain open should you need to pick up some necessities. 

Supermarkets will still be open

Meanwhile, Astro Awani has just announced that supermarkets like Mydin will be opening earlier at 7.30AM from 18th March so that senior citizens and the disabled can shop more comfortably.Jaya Grocer’s opening hours have also been shifted forward to 9.30AM.

On 17th March 2020, the Ministry of Health released an infographic to say that if you have to go out, try to stay at least 1-metre away from others. Likewise, avoid crowded places and avoid physical contact like shaking hands with other people. They’ve also advised Malaysians to wear a surgical mask that covers your mouth and nose when leaving the house. 

Dealing with COVID-19 in Malaysia

Malaysia’s implementation of a Movement Control Order from 18th – 31st March 2020 is just the starting point for us to stand against COVID-19. But governing ministries have assured us there is no reason to panic. 

In fact, our PM has just announced that those who’ve been forced to take no-pay leave will get financial aid of RM600/month, as reported by The Star

All you have to do is limit your movement around the country, avoid crowded places and practice good hygiene. It’s as easy as washing your hands with soap whenever you can, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow (dabbing is, ahem, in again). You can also check out these tips to avoid contracting COVID-19. Else, enjoy that me-time at home while you can!

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