Malaysians won’t be able to leave the country for 2 weeks – here’s why the Movement Control Order is not a lockdown

Malaysians clear the Woodlands checkpoint to board buses back to Johor Bahru.
The Straits Times

Malaysia’s newly-minted prime minister is dealing with a huge national challenge just over two weeks into the job.

On Monday (Mar 16) night, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the decision to close Malaysia’s borders for 14 days in effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting March 18, the Movement Control Order will restrict Malaysians from moving out of the country, as well as prevent foreigners from stepping in.

Malaysians returning from overseas will be given health checks and have to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

According to The Star, around 400,000 Malaysians travel to and from Singapore daily for work and studies. It is still unclear how the order will affect them.

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Mass gatherings for religious activities, sports, as well as social and cultural activities will also be banned.

All worship venues and businesses will have to stay closed during the implementation of the order, but Malaysians will still be able to get their food and daily necessities. According to the PM, supermarkets, public markets and sundry convenience shops will remain open.

While government and private offices will be closed, those providing essential services such as water, electricity, telecommunications, health, fire and rescue etc. will remain open.

On the education front, all schools and learning institutions will be closed for the 14 days.

Calling the order a “necessary” move to prevent the spread of the virus which has killed thousands in other countries, PM Muhyiddin said Malaysians may feel it will be difficult for them to go about their daily lives.

“Drastic action should be taken immediately to prevent the spread of the disease by limiting the movement of the public. This is the only way we can prevent more people from being infected by the outbreaks that can destroy lives,” he was quoted by New Straits Times (NST), as saying.

He also asked Malaysians to stay calm and “endure this challenge”.

Malaysia now has the highest number of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia at 553. Of these, 125 were confirmed on Monday.

Not a lockdown

Despite the drastic-sounding measures implemented, at least one expert has come forward to clarify that the Movement Control Order is in no way a lockdown similar to those seen in China’s Wuhan and Italy.

Citing a Malaysiakini report, Malay Mail reported that former health minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is also chair of the Selangor Covid-19 taskforce, described it as a form of social distancing to “flatten the epidemic curve”.

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“This is nothing like a lockdown at all. A lockdown is when you can’t leave your home, there’s a total curfew, you can’t go out to buy food,” Dzulkefly was quoted as saying.

Over on social media, a number of Malaysians are also warning against mixing up the two measures, highlighting that Malaysians were still very much free to move around to obtain daily necessities without a curfew.

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