New Covid-19 shutdown rules: No movement within states except for food, healthcare, essentials; interstate travel now requires police permission

A general view of traffic on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur as the movement control order kicks in on March 18, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A general view of traffic on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur as the movement control order kicks in on March 18, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Malaysians should not move about within their vicinity except for special purposes or essential activities such as buying food or seeking healthcare, and will need police permission when they travel from one state to another during these two weeks, the government said in a set of new regulations gazetted today.

These new regulations, known as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020, are applicable from March 18 (today) until March 31.

In the March 18 regulations made by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, the government ordered that no persons are to "make any journey from one place to another place” within a state or federal territories except for the following reasons:

- to perform any official duty

- to buy, supply or deliver food or daily necessities

- to seek healthcare or medical services

- to make a journey to and from a limited categories of premises, including any premises which provides essential services; premises involved in the food supply chain; premises selling food and beverages through drive-through, takeaway and delivery; and any premises not providing essential services but allowed to open with the prior written permission of the director-general

- or any other special purposes that may be permitted by the director-general

The regulations also listed out what are “essential services”, which includes banking, finance, electricity, fire, port and airport services, postal, prison, healthcare, medical, rubbish management, transportation, e-commerce, food supply, water, hotels, immigration, customs, defence and security, and any other services that the minister deems as “essential or critical to public health or safety”.

No gatherings at all for anything, except for small-size funerals

Beyond this strict list of when Malaysians can move about within the respective state or federal territories they are in, the new regulations also said no one is allowed to gather or be involved in any gathering, regardless of whether it is for religious, sports, recreational, social or cultural purposes.

But the regulations also said funeral ceremonies can be held if the number of those attending is kept to a minimum.

Police permission if crossing state borders

The new regulations said no one shall travel from one infected local area to another infected local area — or in other words, from one state to another state — without the “prior written permission of a police officer in charge of a police station”.

Cooperation with authorities

For Malaysian citizens or permanent residents of Malaysia returning from overseas, they must first undergo health examination upon arrival in Malaysia before heading for immigration clearance at any point of entry and will also be required to comply with any orders by an authorised officer, the regulations today said.

Under the new regulations, everyone is required to comply with requests from authorised officers for any information on prevention and control of infectious diseases.

(In a separate announcement, the National Security Council (NSC) this afternoon said that the police and Malaysian Volunteer Corps Department (Rela) have been appointed as authorised officers under Section 3 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.)

If you don’t want to follow the rules...

Any person who breaks any of today’s new regulations will be committing an offence that is punishable by a maximum fine of RM1,000 or a maximum six-month jail term or both.

If the offence was committed by a body corporate, any officer of the body corporate — including if they were a director, manager, secretary or was responsible for its affairs at the time the offence was committed — may be charged in the same proceedings with the body corporate.

If the body corporate is found guilty of such offences, its officer will also be considered guilty unless he is able to prove that it was committed without his knowledge or consent and that he took all reasonable precautions and due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence, the regulations said.

What is an ‘infected local area’?

Yesterday, the government gazetted a separate order by the health minister, known as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Declaration of Infected Local Areas) Order 2020.

In the separate order dated March 16 and gazetted yesterday, the health minister had noted that the whole of Malaysia was being “threatened with an epidemic of an infectious disease” namely Covid-19, describing it as a “life-threatening microbial infection”.

In that government order, the health minister declared all the states and federal territories in Malaysia as “infected local areas”, listing them out separately: Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan.

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