Tourists anxious to go home as Malaysia shuts down for Covid-19

Frenchman Charles Da Natale, who has been travelling for a year, loves Malaysia for its diverse culture. — Picture by Shazwan Zaidon
Frenchman Charles Da Natale, who has been travelling for a year, loves Malaysia for its diverse culture. — Picture by Shazwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — With Malaysia under a nationwide movement control order, tourists still stranded are scrambling for flights home.

Some are concerned the travel ban on Malaysians could be expanded universally and prevent them from leaving the country.

Malay Mail spoke to several tourists around Central Market here today for their views of the situation.

Charles Da Natale, 31, from Lyon, France has been travelling around Asia and Europe for a year and his last stop was Kuala Lumpur.

He is leaving today and was fortunate that he had planned for his holidays to end today. However, he has no idea about the situation back home as he may be heavily scrutinised due to his travels in this region.

“My parents are so worried,” said the 31-year-old IT graduate.

“When I heard about the lockdown I thought my flight would be cancelled. So now in France, everyone has to stay at home and everything so I don’t know how it’s going to be.”

France has recorded 7,732 infections and at least 175 deaths. Italy, the country most affected by the coronavirus outside China, has 35,713 infections and 2,978 deaths at the time of writing.

Da Natale said looking at how his country is dealing with the outbreak felt it was a  good move on the government to call for the movement order control. He said, however, it probably should have been called a bit earlier.

“It’s scary when I think of this 14-days in quarantine. I don’t know if I’ll be asked to be in the hospital or home.

“I don’t want my parents to be infected of I am you know. So we’ll see. I got my flight back so that’s good and I feel fine and have taken precautions,” added Da Natale.

Alan from England loves the warm weather in Malaysia but has had to cut his holiday short. — Picture by Shazwan Zaidon
Alan from England loves the warm weather in Malaysia but has had to cut his holiday short. — Picture by Shazwan Zaidon

Meanwhile, an Englishman who asked to be named only as Alan said he was in Langkawi, Kedah on a holiday and was keeping abreast of the happenings in the country.

He had predicted Malaysia would enforce some form of restriction to contain Covid-19 and prebooked his flight home.

When approached by Malay Mail, Alan also insisted on the social distancing recommended as a precaution against Covid-19.

“I was lucky I got mine (flight ticket) early. It was this price then now it’s that,” said Alan as he put his two index fingers close to indicate a small space and then pulled them apart to show a bigger space indicating the prices for air tickets had increased exponentially.

“I usually travel to Asia when it’s cold in England and I’ve been to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore as well. So if you look at the situation of the world now having calls for a partial lockdown is not a bad thing.

“In England, it’s worse than here so you guys are doing good. I’m taking all my precautions and staying in the hotel and only come out for some food. I’ll be leaving tomorrow and I’m going to do the self-quarantine in accordance with the rules,” added the retiree.

The US has banned the entry of all foreigners who visited China, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK or Ireland 14 days before their arrival.

US citizens or permanent residents who have visited a high-risk area must fly into one of the 13 international airports listed by the government with enhanced entry screening capabilities.

A general view of Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur on Day Two of the movement control order March 19, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A general view of Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur on Day Two of the movement control order March 19, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

For Luca and his mother who came to Malaysia to visit relatives, the uncertainty of what awaits them at home was palpable but they have no choice as they could not get an earlier flight out.

“We can only leave next Tuesday as the queue for early flight online is very long and prices are through the roof,” said Luca.

“We didn’t expect the movement control order to be called but since it has we’re riding it out at our hotel in Kl Sentral. We come out for food only,” said the Hawaii native.

“It’s not good in America so we feel you guys are doing ok now but the numbers globally seem to be growing. We will be checking the news every day from now till we leave to see what’s the latest.

“After all what else have we got to do but stay at home and watch TV and eat. The whole city’s pretty dead and there’s nothing to see, nothing is open.”

As of March 13, all American citizens and legal permanent residents who have been in high-risk areas and return to the United States are required to fly to only 13 airports.