Tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia have had their movements, travel and daily life restricted as countries prepare for a surge in novel coronavirus cases.
On Monday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced some of the most far-reaching measures yet imposed in the region, with strict nationwide controls locking down all travel in or out of the country in an effort to stem infections of Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Malaysians will be banned from traveling abroad, while foreign tourists and visitors will be restricted from entering the country, according to the state-run Bernama News Agency. All Malaysians who have just returned from overseas will be required to undergo a health check and self-quarantine for 14 days.
The sweeping travel ban comes as Malaysia reported 125 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 553, according to a tweet from Malaysia’s Health Ministry. On Sunday, the country reported 190 new cases. Most of the new infections from both days are linked to a religious rally that thousands attended near the capital Kuala Lumpur, the Health Ministry said.
The control order, which will start Wednesday and last until the end of the month, includes a “comprehensive restriction on movements and public gatherings,” including a ban on all religious, sports, social, and cultural activities, Bernama reported. Malaysia is home to more than 31 million people.
All houses of worship and business premises will be closed, with the exception of supermarkets, wet markets, grocery shops and convenience stores selling daily necessities. Most government premises, except those providing essential services such as water and electricity, will also be closed, Bernama reported.
Schools, universities and other education institutions will be closed until the end of the month.
“I appeal to everyone to always comply with this movement control order. It is our common responsibility that we must implement as citizens who are concerned about our family, our society and our country,” Muhyiddin said.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Minister Chan Chun Sing sought to allay fears that it will run out of food stocks and other supplies.
“While we may have to make some adjustments to our choices, we do have sufficient supplies for all Singaporeans, so long as we buy responsibly,” Chan said in a televised press conference.
Singapore imports 90% of the food it consumes and there has been a rush on panic buying in recent weeks, with concerns that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent region-wide lockdowns will disrupt the city state’s food supplies.
Chan said Singapore has a contingency plan in place for such a scenario and that food stocks will be sufficient until alternative supplies are found.
Philippines on lockdown
Meanwhile, the Philippines placed half the country – about 50 million people – under an “enhanced community quarantine” in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
Luzon, the Philippines’ largest and most populous island that includes the capital Manila, has effectively been locked down. All mass public transportation has been suspended, and residents told they can only leave their homes for essential items, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.
Offices have been shut and only supermarkets, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, and banks, as well as food delivery services and water stations will be allowed to remain open.
From Tuesday midnight local time, people have 72 hours to leave the island if they wish, after which all air travel to Luzon will be restricted.
Filipino nationals, their spouses and children, permanent residents and holders of diplomatic visas will still be allowed entry, as will cargo, according to CNN Philippines.