Coronavirus: Malaysia starts nationwide disinfection effort

Operation covers high-risk areas; markets, toilets, bus and train stations also cleaned

City Hall health officials disinfecting the entrance of the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday. A religious gathering at the mosque last month led to the spread of most of Malaysia's coronavirus infections. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
City Hall health officials disinfecting the entrance of the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday. A religious gathering at the mosque last month led to the spread of most of Malaysia's coronavirus infections.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia has started sanitising some high-risk areas as part of a nationwide disinfection operation yesterday aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, the national Bernama news agency reported.

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall last Saturday conducted a mass disinfection exercise in the capital, particularly around the Sri Petaling area where a religious gathering at a mosque last month led to the spread of most of the country's coronavirus infections.

In Perak, the local authorities have carried out disinfection operations in areas such as public markets, parks, places of worship and police stations. The Ipoh train station and Tapah district police headquarters were disinfected by the hazardous materials unit and the Fire and Rescue Department on Sunday.

Similar cleanup operations focusing on markets, public toilets, food stalls, bus stations and jetties also took place in Selangor, Melaka and Johor.

States that started the disinfection exercise yesterday include Penang, Terengganu and Kedah.

Malaysia on March 18 began imposing movement and travel curbs to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The Movement Control Order (MCO) banned mass gatherings, including religious, sporting, social and cultural events.

Schools, universities and businesses have also closed, with people allowed to leave their homes only for essential goods and services such as food and medical care.

The order has since been extended from an initial two weeks to April 14.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday that the second phase, taking effect tomorrow, will include tighter restrictions on business hours for eateries and supermarkets, The Star reported.

"Currently, we find that some supermarkets operate until midnight," said Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri.

"Therefore, we have decided in today's meeting that supermarkets as well as restaurants can only operate from 8am to 8pm."

The new business hours will also apply to petrol stations and food delivery services.

Meanwhile, the country's police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said it will be deploying drones to monitor people in the Sungai Lui area in the district of Hulu Langat in Selangor, where enhanced MCO measures have been imposed.

"The drones will enable us to comprehensively monitor the people and the area," said the inspector-general of police. "So far, the residents are giving their full cooperation as they realised that the efforts by the authorities are for their own well-being," he added.

Drones have also been used in the town of Simpang Renggam in Johor, where enhanced MCO (EMCO) measures have been in place since last Thursday and will continue until April 9. Under the EMCO, residents cannot leave their homes, in a move to contain the virus.

Hundreds of people have been arrested for violating the first phase of the restrictions, including 649 people who were detained last Saturday.

Malaysia reported 37 deaths from the coronavirus and 2,626 cases as of yesterday, making up the highest number of infections in South-east Asia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysia starts nationwide disinfection effort'. Subscribe