KUALA LUMPUR - Thousands of Malaysians have clogged up the country's roads as they try to return to their hometowns ahead of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations despite being prohibited to do so under the current movement curbs.
This has prompted senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to warn that the police will not only ask motorists to turn back when they are stopped at roadblocks mounted to prevent unauthorised interstate travel, but will also issue on-the-spot compound notices to errant drivers.
"The police will no longer give permission for inter-state travels except for absolute emergency cases with prior police permission," said Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri on Thursday (May 21).
"Starting today, motorists trying to cross state lines will not only be asked to turn back, but will also be issued a compound notice on the spot at the roadblocks," The Star quoted him as saying.
Mr Ismail Sabri said the authorities will not compromise on the matter, especially after it was reported on Wednesday that a pregnant woman who travelled from a suburb in Kuala Lumpur to her hometown in Kelantan had tested positive for Covid-19.
Malaysia's major highways, such as Kuala Lumpur-Seremban Expressway, The North-South Expressway Central Link (ELITE) and the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), were reportedly congested on Thursday, with some parts of the highways slowed to a crawl.
Many of those on the road were believed to be part of the annual mass exodus to hometowns, or "balik kampung".
Under the current conditional movement control order - put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus - travelling between states is not allowed.
The police have set up 149 inter-state roadblocks all over the country and have checked 271,646 vehicles.
The Star reported that as of Wednesday, some 2,412 vehicles who attempted to cross state lines were asked to turn back by the police.
Selangor deputy police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed said the number of vehicles being prevented from leaving has decreased after many motorists realised they could not slip past the roadblocks.
"As of Wednesday, the ratio of vehicles told to turn back at roadblocks was one out of five vehicles. For example, a total of 50 vehicles were told to turn back at this roadblock (Tanjung Malim exit along the North-South Expressway) between 9am and 3pm (Thursday)," Datuk Arjunaidi said.
Mr Ismail Sabri admitted that some people managed to return to their hometowns before the roadblocks were set up.
"This doesn't mean that they will escape the law when they return to the city later," he said.