Coronavirus: Malaysia

KL's usually busy streets quiet as full lockdown starts

Many switch to online shopping and fast-food chains see more customers at drive-in outlets

A Grab delivery rider approaching the Saloma Link bridge on a near-empty highway in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. Under the full movement control order that began yesterday and will last until June 14, most economic and social activ
A Grab delivery rider approaching the Saloma Link bridge on a near-empty highway in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, yesterday. Under the full movement control order that began yesterday and will last until June 14, most economic and social activities in Malaysia are barred, with people limited to travelling within a 10km radius of their homes.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The usually busy streets in and out of Kuala Lumpur were quiet, with malls and office buildings shuttered yesterday, the first day of a two-week-long full lockdown in Malaysia.

Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said overall traffic on roads on the first day of lockdown went down by 70 per cent, with traffic as low as 90 per cent in some areas.

The full movement control order (FMCO) was imposed to flatten the infection curve after record numbers of daily Covid-19 cases last week. Only essential economic and service sectors listed by the Malaysian National Security Council were still open. These included wet markets and supermarkets, which are operating on shorter hours.

With dining in barred, some people have flocked to fast-food chains that offer drive-through options.

"It's more convenient for me to just buy at a drive-through instead of having to park. This way, I can limit my interaction and contact with people," customer service agent Hazriq Rasdi, 28, told The Straits Times as he waited for his order at a Starbucks outlet on the Federal Highway in Subang Jaya city.

This is the second time the country has gone into a nationwide lockdown. It is to stem a third wave of infections that saw 9,020 new cases last Saturday, the highest number of daily cases recorded in Malaysia.

It was the fifth straight day of record new infections. To date, a total of 2,796 people in the country have died of Covid-19.

The latest restrictions mirror those imposed between March and May last year in the early months of the outbreak in Malaysia. The FMCO, which Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced last Friday, will be in force until June 14.

Most economic and social activities are barred, with people limited to travelling within a 10km radius of their homes. Only two people per household are allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials.

Inter-state and inter-district travel are prohibited.

Essential businesses, such as food and beverage outlets, banking and e-commerce, can operate, but with strict measures in place.

Ms Siti Najwa Halim, 24, a personal shopper for a retail supermarket chain in Selangor, said there has been a surge in online orders since the restrictions kicked in.

"I saw fewer than four walk-in customers this morning," she told ST yesterday. "Most customers are opting for our personal shopping services since there is a limit to how many can enter our premises. It's also out of convenience."

Although supermarkets can remain open, with a cap on the number of people allowed in, checks by ST showed most were empty. The majority of those visiting malls were food and grocery delivery riders.

Although traffic was relatively light, several areas in the Klang Valley region that includes Kuala Lumpur saw slow-moving traffic, Kuala Lumpur City Hall's Integrated Transport Information System showed. It was unclear if the congestion was the result of police roadblocks set up to monitor the FMCO.

Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani had announced on Monday that the authorities would set up 800 roadblocks nationwide, especially near fringes of towns where compliance with the FMCO might be low. There would also be mobile roadblocks activated to discourage travel during the full lockdown, he had said. "We will also increase spot checks outside the city due to the rate of compliance there being lower."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2021, with the headline 'KL's usually busy streets quiet as full lockdown starts'. Subscribe