Covid-19: Malaysian Government imposes Movement Control Order

As one of the measures to contain the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, the Prime Minister of Malaysia issued an announcement last night that the Government will implement a Movement Control Order throughout Malaysia from 18 to 31 March 2020. During this period –
  • Government and private offices will be closed, except those involved in essential services (such as water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, post, transportation, irrigation, oil, gas fuel, lubricants, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire prevention, prisons, ports, airports, security, defence, cleaning, food supply and retail);
  • A complete restriction will be imposed on movement and assembly (including religious activities, sports, social and cultural events) – to enforce this restriction, all houses of worship and business premises will be closed except supermarkets, public markets, sundry shops and convenience stores selling essential goods;
  • A complete restriction will be imposed on Malaysians from travelling abroad;
  • Malaysians returning home will be required to undergo health checks and voluntary self-quarantine for 14 days;
  • A complete restriction will be imposed on foreign visitors and tourists;
  • All public and private institutions of higher learning, i.e. universities, colleges and skills training institutes, will be closed; and
  • All kindergartens and public and private schools, including day schools, residential schools, international schools, Tahfiz centres, and all other institutions of learning in primary, secondary and pre-university levels, will be closed.
The Prime Minister has also announced that a special session of the National Security Council, to be chaired by the Prime Minister himself, will be convened daily to monitor the Covid-19 situation and the public will be updated from time to time.
The Movement Control Order is being enforced pursuant to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (‘PCID Act’) and the Police Act 1967. 
Pursuant to section 11(1) of the PCID Act, the Minster of Health has on 17 March 2020 issued the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Declaration of Infected Local Areas) Order 2020 declaring all States and Federal Territories of Malaysia as infected areas of the Covid-19 disease.
The Minister of Health may now issue regulations pursuant to section 11(2) of the PCID Act to prescribe the measures to be taken to control or prevent the spread of the infectious diseases within or from the infected areas.
A set of Frequently Asked Questions on the Movement Control Order in Bahasa Malaysia has also been issued by the National Security Council.
It is commendable that the Malaysian Government has taken strong measures to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. However several of the measures under the Movement Control Order, in particular those relating to the scope of the exemptions for essential services and essential goods, require clarification. It is hoped that such clarification will be forthcoming soon.