Coronavirus: Minister tells Malaysians not to 'balik kampung'

He notes that many have been flouting rules against inter-state travel ahead of Hari Raya

The police detained 132 people on May 16 for violating the standard operating procedures during the CMCO period. PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA • The number of Malaysians attempting unauthorised inter-state travel has continued to rise, with 1,248 motorists ordered to turn back nationwide, senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said the vehicles were stopped at 147 roadblocks set up at state borders, after 218,027 vehicles were checked last Saturday during the conditional movement control order (MCO).

The number of those who are "trying to sneak their way to 'balik kampung' (annual mass exodus to home towns) is increasing significantly - from 508 on Friday to 1,248 (on Saturday)", Mr Ismail said.

"I have said it many times - no need to balik kampung this Hari Raya as we are still under the conditional movement control order period."

He added: "Our goal has always been to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, thus we need the cooperation of everyone. Sacrifice returning to your home towns this year for the greater good.

"Be patient for now. We all should focus on complying with the conditional MCO and bringing the number of Covid-19 cases down."

Mr Ismail took a swipe at those who managed to sneak back to their home towns, saying such people might not be so lucky on their return trip home.

"Just because they managed to do so... it is not a guarantee they will escape on their way back home," he said.

He also ruled out the possibility of relaxing travel restrictions at the moment as the coronavirus has not yet been fully eradicated in the country.

"In fact, a survey by the National Security Council showed that more people prefer stricter regulations," he said.

"When we announced the 20-people limit for Hari Raya visits on the first day of the celebration, many objected. If the regulations are relaxed further, we fear that more problems will arise."

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The government will consider easing the restrictions, based on the recommendation of the country's health ministry, once the number of coronavirus cases reaches a satisfactory level, he said.

The compliance operation task force led by the police made 70,461 checks on various premises nationwide last Saturday to ensure that everyone complied with the standard operating procedures (SOP) during the conditional MCO period, the senior minister said.

"The police detained 132 people on Saturday for violating the SOP. Those detained have since been remanded," he added.

Malaysia eased a ban on mass prayers in mosques on Friday ahead of the Hari Raya Puasa festival, as the government gradually relaxes nationwide curbs that have helped the country rein in its coronavirus outbreak.

Many businesses have also been reopening, Reuters reported last week.

Malaysia reported 22 new coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing the total to 6,894. The total death toll remained at 113.

The Hari Raya Puasa holiday that ends the fasting month of Ramadan falls on Sunday this year.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Minister tells Malaysians not to 'balik kampung'. Subscribe