I assure you that food is enough for everybody. I know you feel burdened but I don’t have a choice. I have to extend the movement control order for your own safety.

– Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Prime Minister

The movement control order (MCO) has been extended for two more weeks — from April 28 to May 12. Will the MCO be extended after May 12? Most likely, if Covid-19 continues to claim lives and infect many people in Malaysia.

When announcing the extension of the MCO again to May 12, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that if the Covid-19 cases continued to show a sharp decrease, the government might ease the restrictions in stages.

The further extension of the MCO to May 12 is expected because new cases are still being recorded every day in the nation. Though the extension of the MCO is hard on all of us, we have to bear it for our own good.

By April 10 this year, the confirmed worldwide Covid-19 death toll passed 100,000.

Covid-19 is a contagious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The disease started in Wuhan, China and is particularly lethal for older people. What is frightening is that currently, there is no vaccine to combat it nor any approved therapeutics to slow the course of its toll on the human body.

The virus is mainly transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. Another person can be infected if he breathes in the virus or touches a contaminated surface and then his eyes, nose or mouth.

In the United States, the Covid-19 death toll has passed 50,000.  Most US states have wisely imposed lockdown measures that restrict gatherings and social contacts.

New York City has begun temporarily storing the bodies of Covid-19 patients in freezer trucks to ease the burden on the city’s overflowing hospital morgues and give families more time to organise funerals.

By April 21, the city had 134,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and suffered over 9,500 deaths — the highest of any state in the USA.

In Ecuador, the speed of the outbreak in Guayaquil — the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak — left corpses uncollected in homes and in some cases, even in the streets.

The authorities were later forced to store bodies in refrigerated containers and open a cemetery to begin burying the dead.

Those who do not abide by the directives under the movement control order (MCO) can be fined not more than RM1,000 or jailed for not more than six months or both.

The punishment is provided under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Local Infected Areas) Regulations 2020 based on a federal gazette that bars individuals from travelling to another place declared as an infected area published by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Despite hefty fines and heavy punishments, many Malaysians are still violating the MCO.

In Sarawak, for instance, from March 18, day one of the MCO, until April 23, police have arrested 80 individuals for breaching the order.

On April 10, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government might increase the fine for MCO violations as the current RM1,000 rate was low compared to neighbouring regions.

Ismail, who is also Defence Minister, pointed out that other countries were imposing higher fines for similar violations.

“In Singapore, violators will be fined S$10,000 (RM30,492) for the first offence and S$20,000 (RM60,984) for the second offence from April 17.

“In South Korea, the compound is RM30,000,” he told a press conference.

In Sragen Regency, a regency in the eastern part of Central Java province in Indonesia, a politician there was so fed up with people breaking virus quarantine rules that she decided to lock violators in a “haunted house”.

Sragen Regency head Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati instructed communities to adapt abandoned houses that were feared to be haunted.

So, officials in Sepat village chose a house that had been abandoned for a long time and placed beds at a distance separated by curtains.

By the time the story was released on April 22, the village had locked up three recently-arrived residents who were forced to spend their remaining two-week quarantine in the haunted house.

One of the residents interviewed said he had not met any ghosts yet. Nevertheless, he said he had learnt his lesson well.  

But I wonder how scary the experience can be. Which is more painful — to be fined a lot of money or to be locked in a haunted house or a detention centre?

Phase 4 of the MCO coincides with the Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which officially began on Friday, April 24 and ends on May 24. Muslims will celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri after that. Usually, the festival is marked with open houses and visits to friends and relatives.

This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Muslims are urged to celebrate it quietly with just their families.

After May 12, will the MCO be extended again or will there be easing of restrictions in stages, as indicated by the prime minister? 

I guess we will just have to wait and see. I believe our learned leaders and health experts know best. We will abide by their decisions.