Coronavirus: Police in Malaysia encounter excuses and kindness as they enforce restricted movement order

Police officers check vehicles at a roadblock to enforce movement control order due to the spread of the coronavirus disease in Kuala Lumpur, on March 19, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - A couple in a car were stopped at a police roadblock on Wednesday night (March 18) in Selangor. Nervous, the male driver wound down the window to speak to an officer.

"Where are you two headed to? The restricted movement order (RMO) is in effect. You shouldn't go out unless it's really necessary," said the policeman from the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters.

"We're craving for some Kentucky Fried Chicken, sir," said the driver, and the woman with him nodded in agreement.

Police say some of the excuses offered are almost incredulous as they try to enforce the RMO, which was announced on Monday by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

National police chief Abdul Hamid Bador disclosed that 8,600 officers had been deployed nationwide and more than 500 roadblocks set up since Wednesday night as part of an attempt to make sure that Malaysians stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of police and workers from local councils in various townships in Malaysia have also been moving around to educate people and disperse large gatherings.

"You should really hear some of their excuses," said Petaling Jaya police chief Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal.

"Some actually used their wife as an excuse to go out, like 'I have to send lunch to my wife'. I don't know whether to laugh or cry but as a policeman, we need to always be professional when dealing with the public," he said.

Malaysia on Friday entered the third day of the RMO. Public gatherings have been banned, schools and businesses closed, overseas travel for Malaysians suspended and tourists banned from entering until March 31.

The government on Friday announced that the army will from Sunday help the police in implementing the RMO.

Since its implementation, a construction firm in Kuala Lumpur has been fined RM50,000 (S$16,509) for operating despite having been served a stop-work notice, while a man in Sungai Petani, Perak, was arrested for turning aggressive after refusing to return home.

On Friday, an elderly man in Labuan, in Sabah, had to be forcefully taken to hospital with the help of the police to undergo a Covid-19 screening after being in contact with one of the congregants at the Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling in Kuala Lumpur who tested positive.

To date, Malaysia remains the worst hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia, with 1,030 cases as of Friday and two deaths.

Two-thirds of these cases stem from the religious gathering late last month at the Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling, which some 16,000 people attended.

Amid the worsening situation, however, police also had heart-warming encounters.

"At Seapark, Petaling Jaya, last night (Thursday), a couple who were returning from some grocery shopping pulled over. They then shared several canned food and drink packets with those who were hard at work.

"Another group also took the chance to thank us for doing our part to help the country. These thank-yous are the things that make it worthwhile. We will strive to do better," Mr Ezanee said.

He added that the police will continue to spread awareness about the situation while they enforce the RMO.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.