Under new rules, hotels, wildlife services, Customs, Immigration classed as essential during Covid-19

The Immigration Department logo is seen at its headquarters in Putrajaya. The government today expanded its list of 'essential services' to cover Immigration and Customs. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The Immigration Department logo is seen at its headquarters in Putrajaya. The government today expanded its list of 'essential services' to cover Immigration and Customs. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Hotels, wildlife services, Customs and Immigration have been added to the government's official list of essential activities that may continue during the two-week nationwide shutdown beginning today.

In a set of new government regulations gazetted today, the government published an expanded list of what it categorised as "essential services".

In the regulations dated March 18 and made by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, the full list of essential services include banking and finance; electricity and energy; fire; port, dock and airport services and undertakings including stevedoring, lighterage, cargo handling, pilotage and storing or bulking of commodities.

Also included in the essential services list are postal; prison; production, refining, storage, supply and distribution of fuel and lubricants; healthcare and medical; solid waste management and public cleansing and sewerage.

The rest of the new list today are radio communication including broadcasting and television; telecommunication; transport by land, water or air; water; e-commerce; defence and security; food supply; wildlife; immigration; customs; hotels and accommodations; and "any services or works determined by the minister as essential or critical to public health or safety".

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.

The government’s previous list

On Monday, the prime minister when announcing the two-week restriction of movement order had listed these out as essential services: water, electricity, telecommunications, postal, transportation, irrigation, oil and gas, fuel, lubricants, broadcast, financial, banking, health, pharmacies, fire and rescue services, prison services, ports, airports, security, defence, cleaning, sundry goods and food supply.

Hotels to only serve guests who checked in before today

In an immediate response, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) said the government’s addition this morning of hotels to the “essential services” list does not mean that hotels can continue to operate as usual.

The association stressed that hotels can only serve guests who have already been staying there before the two-week nationwide shutdown started today.

“The utmost priority now is to limit the movement of people, to contain Covid-19 which is already spreading within our community.

“Hoteliers are to limit its services to only guests whom have already checked-in into the hotel before March 18, 2020, and food and beverage services limited to room service only. All other facilities and services of the hotel are to remain closed,” the association said in a statement today, adding that hotels will be allowed to keep the bare minimum of staff onsite for critical needs such as security and engineering.

It’s not holiday time

Yesterday, the National Security Council (NSC) had advised Malaysians to cancel any holiday plans they have made for travel within Malaysia, including for those they have already paid for.

“Under the Movement Control Order, the public is prohibited from going anywhere including to tourist spots for social activities and if that visit does not involve matters related to national essential services. You are advised not to continue your vacation,” the NSC said in its list of frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) released yesterday.

Room service only

Separately, the National Security Council (NSC) today issued a detailed list of the level of activities allowed for all the essential services during this two-week period.

For hotels, homestays and paid accommodation, the NSC said guests have to remain in their rooms according to the quarantine period and that food is to be ordered via room service.

The NSC also said that the kitchens at hotels and such facilities are only allowed to operate to prepare food for room service, while saying that other side services such as swimming pools, gyms, spas, bars, pubs and restaurants at hotels and other similar forms of accommodation are not allowed to operate.

The NSC today also told Malaysians to stay at home — except for when they need to fulfill basic needs — during the duration of the restriction of movement order.

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