Foreign missions react to Malaysia's movement restriction order amid coronavirus outbreak

A man wearing a face mask walks through an unusually empty shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, on March 16, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Foreign diplomatic missions are reacting to the Covid-19 "near standstill" in the country by implementing changes of their own.

These include a work-from-home directive, scrapping consular services/visa interviews, reducing office hours and introducing weekly rotation of staff members.

Several of the 108 foreign missions here have also put off their national day receptions and other public events scheduled soon to honour the Malaysian government's movement restriction order.

British High Commissioner Charles Hay said his mission would remain operational during the period of restricted movement "but it will not be business as usual".

"We have started remote working arrangement for members of our staff in order to observe the movement restriction.

"Our priority is to make sure that British nationals in Malaysia are given the necessary consular support during this time, " he added.

The US Embassy has cancelled all immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments effective on Tuesday (March 17).

"We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

"Once we reopen appointments for non-immigrant visas (tourist and student visas), those with appointments will be notified that they may reschedule, " said an embassy spokesman.

Singapore High Commissioner Vanu Gopala Menon said: "We are taking precautionary measures while the High Commission operates. We are rotating staff so that not everyone is in at the same time."

Pakistan High Commission deputy chief of mission Atif Sharif said passport and emergency travel documents would be available over the counter but only for emergency cases.

"We are advising our community to exercise caution, social distancing and avoid unnecessary travel until the movement restriction order is lifted.

"We have reduced office timing, introduced weekly rotation of staff, set up a helpline/hotline for our nationals and conducted systematic sanitisation of the chancery.''

An Indian High Commission official said approval had been given for staff members to work from home.

"We are providing emergency consular services only, " he added.

Russian Embassy deputy chief of mission Dr Anton Revutskiy said the consular section had frozen visa interviews indefinitely, with only emergency cases considered on a case-by-case basis.

"We would like to know if diplomatic passport holders are exempted from the travel restriction, " he added.

Wisma Putra secretary-general Datuk Seri Shahrul Ikram Yaakob, who appreciated the changes adopted by the foreign missions, said Foreign Ministry staff members would work from home beginning on Wednesday.

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