Coronavirus: Over 450 arrested in Malaysia for breaching control order

Billions of people all over the world are facing various degrees of lockdown in their areas or countries. As advice to observe social distancing often falls on deaf ears, many governments have stepped up measures to ensure social contact is minimised. In Malaysia, for instance, over 450 people have been arrested for flouting the country’s Movement Control Order.

A photo taken on March 27, 2020 shows police officers at an entrance of a market during the movement control order in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA • More than 400 people in Malaysia were arrested over Thursday and Friday for flouting the country's movement control order (MCO), which has shut schools and businesses and only allows people to leave their homes for essential goods and services, such as food and medical care.

The month-long controls, which will be in place until April 14, come as Malaysia grapples with the highest number of coronavirus cases in South-east Asia. It reported 2,320 infections and 27 deaths as at yesterday.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said while about 97 per cent of people have complied with the order, there were 482 people arrested over the two days for conducting activities that are disallowed, such as holding Friday prayers at mosques and jogging in their neighbourhoods.

"We believe sterner and firmer actions by the police have contributed to the higher compliance to the MCO. However, the arrests show that there are still many out there who do not abide by the MCO," Datuk Seri Ismail said at a press conference yesterday.

A total of 116 people were found to have held Friday prayers despite the directive clearly stating that such an act was not allowed during the MCO, he added.

"Five mosques are also still hosting prayers and this should not be the way. We hope all Malaysians comply fully with the MCO," he said.

Action has also been taken against those who jog, even in gated communities, he added.

On Friday, the police conducted 1,046 roadblocks nationwide and checked 240,544 vehicles. The high number of checks, he said, revealed that there are still many people on the road during the MCO period.

"I was even sent videos of traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor," Mr Ismail said.

Yesterday, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa said army and police personnel manning roadblocks in the capital will now be armed with thermometers.

He said those found to be having a fever may be detained and taken for health screenings.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 29, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Over 450 arrested in Malaysia for breaching control order. Subscribe