SHAH ALAM - More than 3,000 vehicles were turned back on Tuesday (May 19) on Malaysian highways, after their drivers were caught trying to make sneak runs back to their hometowns, said Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Wednesday.
The government has barred Malaysian from travelling between the country's 13 states to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus from big cities to rural areas, but some people are still trying their luck.
Several thousand others had been caught and turned back in recent days, police have said.
Police on Tuesday alone stopped 318,000 vehicles at toll plazas across the country to check their destinations, Datuk Seri Ismail told the media at his daily press briefing on Covid-19.
"Anyone who travels across states without police permission will definitely face action," he said last week, as quoted by The Star daily.
The banning of inter-state travel took a new urgency this week, as the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri will be celebrated on Sunday by 60 per cent of Malaysia's 32 million population.
In Selangor state, the police's Covid-19 task force spokesman Muhammad Yazid Muhammad Yew warned that those found making inter-state travel without prior permission would be given compound fines.
"Now we mean business. No more 'advice'," he said. Previous violators of the movement control order (MCO) have been fined RM1,000 (S$325) or more, and many had to wait in jail for several days while their cases were being processed.
Police have also said that they will check on parked vehicles with outstation licence plates and will knock on doors to find out who the drivers of these vehicles were.
The authorities on Wednesday said that the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya are considered to be in the same zone as Selangor state. This means that some 7 million residents in these areas, widely called the Klang Valley, could travel freely within them.
Those wishing to do inter-state travel for work or urgent family matters need to apply with the authorities first.
The Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Wednesday that a pregnant woman had travelled from Ampang in Kuala Lumpur to Kelantan because she wanted to give birth in the state, unknowingly bringing the virus with her to the rural northern state.
He said the woman, who is 35 weeks into her pregnancy, tested positive for the virus when she sought treatment at a maternity clinic in Kelantan.
"Kelantan is a Covid-19 green zone (clear of the virus). The woman had travelled back to the state from Ampang, which is a red zone. When she arrived at her village, she went to a maternity clinic and she tested positive for the virus.
"It was her desire to give birth at her home village, " said Dr Noor Hisham at the ministry's daily Covid-19 press conference.
Dr Noor Hisham said the patient has already been isolated and is receiving treatment.
The last time Kelantan had an active case was April 28.