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2020 Malaysia movement control order

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2020 Malaysia movement control order
Part of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia
Ops Covid19 Tentera Mula Operasi Bantu Pdrm Di Shah Alam.png
Police checkpoint in Shah Alam, 22 March 2020.
Date18 March 2020 (2020-03-18) – present (1 month, 3 weeks, and 3 days; tentatively scheduled to expire 9 June 2020 (2020-06-09))
Location
Caused byCOVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia
GoalsContainment of the pandemic
Methods
  • Prohibition of movement and mass assembly nationwide, including all religious, sports, social and cultural activities.
  • All religious activities in mosques suspended, including Friday prayers
  • Malaysians barred from leaving the country, and restrictions placed on the entry of non-Malaysians into the country
  • All industries closed except for infrastructure services and supermarkets, wet markets, grocery stores and multi-functional stores selling daily necessities
  • All nurseries, government and private schools, including boarding schools, international schools, tahfiz centres, primary, secondary and pre-university education institutions, public and private universities, and vocational training centres closed
StatusIn force
Casualties
Arrested24,081 (As of 3 May 2020)[1]

Template:History of Malaysia

The 2020 Malaysia Movement Control Order (Template:Lang-ms), commonly referred to as the MCO, is a cordon sanitaire implemented as a preventive measure by the federal government of Malaysia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country on 18 March 2020.[2] The order was commonly referred to in local and international media as a "lockdown" or "partial lockdown".[3]

Chronology[edit source | edit]

On 16 March 2020, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made a official speech and officially promulgated the movement control order under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967.[4] The order included the following restrictions:

  1. General prohibition of mass movements and gatherings across the country including religious, sports, social and cultural activities. To enforce this prohibition, all houses of worship and business premises would be closed, except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities. Specifically for Muslims, the adjournment of all religious activities in mosques including Friday prayers would be in line with the decision made on 15 March 2020 by the Special Muzakarah Committee Meeting of the National Fatwa Council.[5]
  2. Sanctions covering all Malaysians travelling abroad. For those who have just returned from overseas, they would be required to undergo a health check and a 14-day quarantine (or self-quarantine).[5]
  3. Restrictions on the entry of all tourists and foreign visitors into the country.[5]
  4. Closure of all kindergartens, government and private schools including daily schools, boarding schools, international schools, tahfiz centres and other primary, secondary and pre-university institutions.[5]
  5. Closure of all public and private higher education institutions (IPTs) and skills training institutes nationwide.[5]
  6. Closure of all government and private premises except those involved in essential services (water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, postal, transportation, irrigation, oil, gas, fuel, lubricants, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire, prison, port, airport, safety, defence, cleaning, retail and food supply.[5]

On 18 March, Malaysia began the implementation the movement control order. On 25 March, the prime minister through a live national broadcast announced a first extension of the MCO to last until 14 April.[6][7]

There were, however, considerations of a further lockdown until late April or May as the number of cases in Malaysia is expected to peak in mid-April, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).[8][9] On 8 April, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the health ministry was having a discussion with the nation's cabinet regarding the possible extension of the MCO, with the decision of the MCO's duration to be announced no later than Friday.[10][11] On 10 April, the prime minister announced a second extension of the MCO by another fortnight until 28 April, noting that his decision was to give space to the healthcare personnels battling the COVID-19 outbreak, apart from preventing the virus from spreading again and to avoid an another increase of cases if the MCO is lifted too early.[12] On the night of 23 April, Muhyiddin announced a third extension of the MCO by two weeks till 12 May, with the possibility of further extensions.[13]

The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) initially warned that violators of the MCO's regulation may be subjected to various penalties under the Penal Code.[14] However, on 18 March, the chamber of the Attorney General released a federal gazette specific to the control order, where violations can be fined up to RM1,000 (US$229) and/or jailed not more than six months or both.[15] On 14 April, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob stated that compounds will no longer be issued by the police from the next day as the penalties were ineffective on reducing MCO violations, and offenders will be arrested and remanded instead.[16]

With the exception of travel to Sarawak, a written police permit with a valid reason was originally planned to be required for interstate travel during the MCO.[17] As a result, large crowds were reported to have gathered at police stations for permits hours before the travel restriction was in effect. Concerned that the crowding will exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, PDRM called off the permit plan a few hours before the MCO, until further notice.[18]

During the MCO, PDRM conducted road blocks operations (dubbed "Ops COVID-19") along key points across the country,[19] to monitor travellers and warn them to stay home and abide by the order.[20][21][22] From 22 March, Malaysia's military forces were mobilised to augment PDRM's MCO operations; as of April, approximately 7,000 military personnel were deployed to assist.[23][24] From 4 May, in line with the Conditional MCO, PDRM is planning to reduce roadblocks nationwide to focus on social distancing enforcements as well as curbing the entry of illegal immigrants and smuggling activities.[25]

On 30 March, the national government designated that all businesses such as supermarkets and restaurants, including food delivery services can only be operated from 8AM till 8PM starting from 1 April.[26] Sarawak, however, insisted on its operation time of 7AM till 7PM, citing that Sarawak's daylight is earlier than in West Malaysia.[27] Further measures were instilled starting from 1 April; a person must not be accompanied with other people during travel, a 10 km travel radius for all travellers and the banning of all types of gatherings except for funerals, however the attendees must be kept to a minimum.[28] People who travel for medical purposes are exempted from companion rule and the travel radius.[29]

All levels of supply chains regarding agricultural and fishing industries are allowed to be in operation throughout the order.[30] On 10 April, the Malaysian government gave permissions to certain businesses to operate during the order to ensure the sustainability of the country's economy, to prevent the loss of jobs among Malaysians and to ensure a continuous access to basic needs and critical products.[31]

On 10 May Prime Minister Muhyiddin announced in a live broadcast, that the CMCO will be extended until 9 June, the fourth extension since 18 March. Earlier, the Malaysian Government had eased lockdown restrictions on 4 May under a "conditional MCO," which allowed certain business sectors to resume operations. Yassin clarified that that all rules and standard operating procedures (SOPs) introduced during the conditional MCO would remain in force until 9 June and that any changes to the SOPs or the list of sectors allowed to operate will be announced. There will be a ban on interstate movement during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the Kaamatan Feast and Hari Gawai holiday periods.[32][33]

Enhanced Movement Control Order[edit source | edit]

Joint inspection by the police and army during the enhanced movement control order on 15 April 2020

From 27 March, specific locations were subjected to a stricter order, dubbed the "Enhanced Movement Control Order" (EMCO or Enhanced MCO), for 14 days if a large cluster was detected within the area in order for the government to conduct a thorough COVID-19 test towards all residents, and to curb the spread of the virus out of the areas. The orders included:[34]

  • all residents and visitors within the area are forbidden from exiting their homes during the order;
  • non-residents and visitors outside the area cannot enter into the area subjected to the order;
  • all businesses are shut down;
  • adequate food supplies will be given by the authorities during the 14 day-order to all residents;
  • a medical base will be established within the area;
  • all roads into the area are blocked.

On 27 March, two areas in Simpang Renggam, Johor were subjected to the order till 9 April as those areas alone contributed to a high 61 positive cases.[34] On 30 March, this order is applied to a few hamlets in Sungai Lui, Hulu Langat District, Selangor due to a detection of a cluster involving a madrasa with 71 positive cases.[35] City One, a residential complex in Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Kuala Lumpur which its residents are mainly foreign workers was subjected to the extended order on 31 March as 17 cases involving residents of the tower were detected.[36] Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion, apartment buildings located at Jalan Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur, were subjected to EMCOs on 7 April, as 15 positive cases were detected within the two buildings,[37] while Jalan Masjid India and its surrounding areas were subjected to EMCOs on 14 April.[38] Similarly, an EMCO order was placed for over 15,000 residents living around the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market in Selayang on 20 April until 3 May, following the detection of 20 cases and one fatality from the area.[39]

Masjid India of Kuala Lumpur completely sealed off during EMCO

On 6 April, Malaysia's Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, suggested that the government is planning for a new standard operation procedure regarding the EMCO and the government tried to not impose an excessively wide radius towards areas subjected to the EMCO.[40]

Relaxation of restrictions[edit source | edit]

As the number of daily cases and active cases of COVID-19 reduced in Malaysia by mid-April, the government had relaxed several measures of the MCO. Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong confirmed that all public transportation services would resume on 4 May but would abide by social distancing measures.[41] On 30 April, the Government announced that two family members will be allowed to buy food and other daily essentials as part of the relaxation of MCO restrictions.[42]

Conditional Movement Control Order[edit source | edit]

Muhyiddin Yassin in his Labour Day speech on 1 May announced a plan named the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO or Conditional MCO), a relaxation of regulations regarding the MCO, with its main goal was to reopen the national economy in a controlled manner.[43] The CMCO was scheduled to start from 4 May.[43] The regulations of the CMCO as stated in his speech included:[44]

  • most economic sectors and activities are allowed to operate while observing the business standard operation procedures such as social distancing and recording the names and telephone numbers of customers and the dates of their visit;
  • sports activities involving large gatherings, body contact and other risks of infection are not allowed, including all indoor and stadium sports events. Outdoor sports activities which do not involve body contact, in small groups without an audience and involving not more than 10 persons are allowed on the condition that social distancing is practised;
  • social, community and cultural events which involve large gatherings as well as all types of official events and assemblies are not permitted. Religious activities and all congregational or assembly activities in houses of worship are not allowed;
  • interstate travel, including the balik kampung tradition for the oncoming Eid al-Fitr are not allowed except for work purposes and to return home after being stranded in the hometowns or elsewhere.

However, the CMCO received mixed reactions among state governments around Malaysia.[45] The states of Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak decided to not implement the CMCO by 4 May, either to give way to discussions regarding the implications of reopening economic sections towards the future trend of Malaysia's pandemic or to secure the positive development of the pandemic.[46] The governments of Selangor and Perak restricted some business sectors operating during the CMCO while Negeri Sembilan only allowed economic sectors to reopen.[45][46] The government of Penang on the other hand had implemented a three-phase gradual reopening till 13 May.[45]

The CMCO received backlash by politicians, health experts and the general public over concerns of a possible resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia due to the seemingly reckless and unnecessary relaxation of the MCO; the federal government responded by stating that the CMCO is stricter than relaxation measures taken in other countries.[47][48] By 3 May, over 420,000 members of the public had signed a petition of objection to the conditional MCO and urging the government to stay with the MCO.[49]

Measures by state[edit source | edit]

Pahang[edit source | edit]

From 21–31 March, the state of Pahang has enact that all business stores in Kuantan, Pekan, Bentong, Jerantut and Temerloh (Cameron Highlands had already begun to implement the measure on 16 March) must only operate during the day up to 12 hours, and need to close after 7PM to 7AM. According to the measurement, all shops that were originally allowed to operate during the period of the control order, including drive-thru restaurants, fast food restaurants, and petrol stations, are no longer allowed to operate between 7PM and 7AM.[50] From 1 April, PDRM's state division tightened state borders and set up roadblocks on the state's major highways.[51]

Perak[edit source | edit]

Wholesale market operating hours in Perak during the MCO were designated from 4AM to 10AM, however, from 6 April, wet food-related businesses such as poultry and seafood were designated from 4AM to 10AM, while businesses for vegetables and fruits were designated from 11AM to 4PM. The closure from 10AM till 11PM was dedicated for cleaning processes.[52]

Terengganu[edit source | edit]

The Royal Malaysia Police in Terengganu planned to impose traffic control based on vehicle registration numbers, where vehicles with odd or even registration numbers are only allowed to travel during odd- or even-numbered days, respectively, starting 1 April. The plan was later postponed the day before the rollout to allow a detailed study of the proposed control.[53]

Effects[edit source | edit]

Arrests and crime[edit source | edit]

Despite past condemnation, the Malaysian authorities have arrested hundreds of people for violating MCO (Movement Control Order) since mid-April. The violators are being fined, jailed or sent to perform community service as part of the punishment. The sentence jail term ranges from 2 days to several months. The violators unable to pay their fines are meant to serve prison sentence.[54]

According to a Human Rights Watch report, 15,000 people had been arrested by 18 March for breaching the movement control order. On 2 April 2020, Minister of Defence Ismail Sabri Yaakob reported that 4,189 individuals had been arrested over the past two weeks for flouting the movement control order. Of these, 1,449 individuals have been charged in court.[55] On 3 May, Nurul Hidayah Ahmad Zahid, the daughter of President of UMNO, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi her husband, Saiful Nizam Mohd Yusoff were caught for flouting the MCO.[56]

After the director-general of the Malaysian Prison Department raised concerns about prison overcrowding, the Malaysian Government shifted to fining violators. On 15 April, the Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the Police would be criminally prosecuting violators and detained them in thirteen police academies that had been converted into makeshift detention centres.[57] Human rights organizations condemned the move as it further promotes the spread of coronavirus due to overcrowding in prisons. In late April, Human Rights Watch's Asia Director Phil Robertson called on the Malaysian government to stop jailing people who had flouted the movement control order, however recommends the use of the newly built facilities to keep lockdown violators.[57]

The MCO has led to a decrease in the national crime rate by around 70%.[58] Data from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development suggested a slight increase of domestic violence nationwide during the MCO, however in control.[59]

Economy[edit source | edit]

With the country is known as the world's top rubber glove maker, concerns have risen especially from the European Union (EU) over the impacts of the movement control to Malaysia's glove exports especially with the increasing glove shortages among European healthcare sectors.[60] This subsequently led the EU to sent a letter on 25 March to the Malaysian counterpart for the relaxation of the movement control order on the glove sectors. Through a positive replied made by the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry to allowing continuous operations, a letter was subsequently distributed by the Malaysia Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association on 27 March to glove manufacturers in the country to allowing their factories to remain open from 1 April.[60] The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also had removed a ban on glove exports to the United States by a Malaysian glove company previously accused of using forced labour as part of the American government efforts to boost supplies of their healthcare sectors due to the increasing shortages of medical equipments caused by the pandemic.[61]

Education[edit source | edit]

The Prime Minister had instructed the Ministry of Education to implement home-based learning initiatives throughout the duration of MCO as schools nationwide were closed during the period.[62] Assessments and examinations for various national higher education programmes were cancelled as some institutes were converted into temporary surveillance and quarantine centres, and students' performance evaluations were replaced by continuous assessment scores.[63] Also, national examination SPM delayed to Jan 2021 from scheduled Nov 2020.

Essential supplies[edit source | edit]

The usually crowded Lim Chong Eu Expressway and its surroundings (Queensbay Mall) in Penang deserted throughout the movement control order as seen on 22 March 2020.

Before Malaysia announced the movement control order, supermarkets across the country began to see a surge in panic buying, and the supply of surgical masks everywhere was out, causing prices to skyrocket. In response, the Prime Minister of Malaysia said in a televised speech on the 16th assured that supply of food, daily essentials and healthcare (including surgical masks), were sufficient nationwide, adding that the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs would be monitoring the food supply and the daily demand of the market during the period of its closure.[4]

Transportation[edit source | edit]

Square in front of the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on 20 March 2020 during the movement control order.

Scores of Malaysians working in Singapore and foreigners rushed back to the immigration checkpoints in the hope to return to Singapore before the order became effective. Singapore-based public transport operators had arranged temporary accommodation at several hotels to accommodate the affected Malaysian Bus Captains.[64][65] Scheduled bus services travelling between Singapore and Johor Bahru were suspended as well.[66] The announcement of the movement control order reportedly caused some anxiety among Singaporean residents over their food supplies, of which a significant portion came from Malaysia. Panic buying briefly returning in Singapore as Singaporeans rushed to supermarkets to stock basic necessities,[67] and Singapore's ministers and Prime Minister had to assure them that there would be enough supplies for the country, and that the flow of goods between the two countries would continue.[68][69][70] Moments after the order was announced in Malaysia, With the announcement of the movement control, various diplomatic missions such as the United States and France have ceased issuing visas, while India prohibited Malaysian citizens from travelling to its country.[71] Thai residents headed out of Malaysia in large numbers while the large community of Indonesians in Malaysia also prepared for the situation as reported by their embassy.[72][73][74] Other diplomatic missions closely monitor the situation of the restrictive movement and await further instructions both from their government and the Malaysian government.[75]

As the number of passengers decreased significantly during the movement control order and to reduce the risk of infection of passengers and employees, Malaysia's main bus operator, Rapid Bus readjusted the frequency of all its buses starting from 20 March where it also encouraged the people to plan their trips in advance. Rapid Ferry also has made adjustments by reducing to two ferries each day to operate starting from 20 March. Each shift was changed from the original 20 minutes to 30 minutes. After 10PM, the frequency of the ferry service will be changed to 1 hour. As for the last ferry ride time, it will depend on the arrival time of the last bus in Penang Sentral.[76]

On 4 April 2020, all Express Rail Link rail services were to be suspended until the end of the control period due to significant reductions in passenger flow.[77]

On 16 April 2020, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob clarified that any form of mass movements and interstate travel would be prohibited during Ramadan as long as the Movement Control Order remains in force until 28 April. Many Muslim Malaysians visit their families and hometowns during the Ramadan period.[78]

National Security Council's Power[edit source | edit]

Dr. Yusramizza Md Isa, Senior Law Lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia, noted that the government's actions in issuing the MCO is under the auspices of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988. By virtue of Section 5 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, the Health Ministry, is the main authority in charge.[79]

However, on 6 April 2020, Minister of Defence Ismail Sabri Yaakob reported that only the National Security Council (NSC) can issue directives during the MCO.[80]

Dr. Yusramizza further noted that unless "disaster emergency" or "a security area" is declared by the Prime Minister based on Section 18 of the National Security Council Act 2016 and Article 25 of the Malaysia National Security Council Directive 20, the military is not empowered to arrest, seize and search.[79]

Kuala Lumpur lawyers Haeme Hashim and CK Lew from Messrs. Haeme Lew suggested that the government ought to declare a "disaster emergency" pursuant to Article 25 of the Malaysia National Security Council Directive 20 and for the entirety of Malaysia to be declared as a "security area" under Section 18 of the National Security Council Act 2016, failing which the NSC and military does not have full power in administering this Movement Control Order. Only the police have full power and the military only works to assist the police in strengthening control over the order.[81]

Civil society organization Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) has stated that a special taskforce may be formed to assist health ministry, but not the NSC. Spokesperson for Madpet Charles Hector noted that the Malaysian government may have quietly and wrongly resorted to using the draconian National Security Council Act 2016 in the combat to curb and defeat the coronavirus threat as the NSC, under the NSC Act, seemed to be making decisions and issuing orders on coronavirus-related issues. Hector notes that the Ministry of Health's authority may be ousted by the NSC, and that the NSC may be wrongly taking over power and control from the Ministry of Health, which is really the responsible Ministry under the Prevention And Control Of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.[82]

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

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