Malaysia imposes 2-week travel ban for citizens, shuts businesses

Malaysia is banning its citizens from travelling abroad from 18 to 31 March and restricting all foreign entry during the period. In a latest speech, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said this is in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, which saw an increase of 190 cases on 15 March and 125 new cases today. Malaysians who have just returned from overseas are required to undergo health checks and self-quarantine for 14 days, the PM said.

Besides banning travel, the Malaysian government has also ordered all businesses and houses of worship to be closed, except for supermarkets, public markets, and convenience stores selling daily necessities. Friday prayers will also be suspended, Muhyiddin said.

All government and private premises, except those managing Malaysia's essential services such as water, electricity, power, telecommunications, postal, transportation, finance, security, health and gas, will be closed. Kindergartens, government and private schools, as well as public and private institutions of higher learning and skills training institutes nationwide will also shut during this period.

In his speech, Muhyiddin assured citizens that there is enough supply of groceries, daily necessities and healthcare items including face masks. He has also directed the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to constantly monitor the food supply situation and daily needs during the two-week period.

"Don't panic, don't worry, and keep calm. I believe the movement restriction measures implemented by the government will be able to block the spread of this outbreak in the near future," he added.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin also unveiled an additional RM620 million to help the economy tide through the impact of COVID-19. According to The Straits Times, this will cover a RM500 million provision for a 2% discount on electricity tariffs from 1 April to 30 September. The sectors include industrial, commercial and agriculture, as well as domestic users. Another RM120 million has been set aside for monthly handouts.

 Last month, Malaysia set aside RM20 billion for its 2020 Economic Stimulus Package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Out of the RM20 billion, RM500 million was allocated to offer Malaysians with digital vouchers of up to RM100 per person for domestic flights, rails and hotel accommodations. Additional matching grants for tourism promotion will be provided. 

In response to Malaysia's latest move, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post that businesses that employ Malaysian workers who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily may have to activate their business continuity plans.

He added that the Singapore government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC Fairprice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase the country's stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months. "This means that we are not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers," Chan said.

According to him, the country has also implemented "a robust multi-pronged strategy" that will ensure it does not run out of essentials. "Although we are not facing any shortages, I urge everyone to continue to purchase in a responsible manner and to purchase only what you need. Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient," Chan said.

Separately last Thursday, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong assured citizens in a speech that Singapore "remains under control". "We are not going to DORSCON Red. We are not locking down our city like the Chinese, South Koreans or Italians have done," he said.

He said that the government is planning ahead for some of the more stringent measures, try them out, and prepare Singaporeans for when the government actually needs to implement them. The Singapore government is also working on a second stimulus package to help companies with their costs and cash-flow, as well as help workers retain their jobs during this period of time. The first package, the stablisation and support package worth SG$4 billion, was announced during Budget 2020 in February. 

Related articles:
Facebook commits US$20m to battle COVID-19
After COVID-19 hit, Princess Cruises now reports 2019 data breach
YouTube backtracks on COVID-19 monetisation ban placed on creators
Spotify users curate COVID-19 playlists
Malindo Air reportedly asks staff to take pay cut amidst COVID-19 outbreak
AirAsia outlines cost measures, says minimal impact on staff of lower-income