I appeal to all of you. Please, stay put where you are. Those in Kuala Lumpur, stay in Kuala Lumpur. Those in Johor Baru should stay put in Johor Baru. Those who made plans to go back to your kampung, please cancel it. It is just for two weeks.

– Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Today is the fifth day of the nationwide movement control order (MCO)  which was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on last Monday.

The order from March 18 to March 31 is the first in the country’s history. Made under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967, it aims to contain the spread of Covid-19.

At noon on the day that Muhyiddin announced the order, a total of 125 new positive cases were reported, bringing the total in Malaysia to 553 cases. Five days later, on March 21, another 130 new positive cases were reported, bringing the total in the country to 1,030.

Sarawak recorded five new confirmed cases on March 18, bringing the total number of positive infections to 50. Two days later, the state recorded seven more positive cases, bringing the total cases to 58 since the first positive case was reported on March 13.

Malaysia recorded its first two deaths from Covid-19 on March 17, in Kuching and in Johor Bahru. Sarawak’s victim was a 60-year-old pastor from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kuching who died at 11am at the Sarawak General Hospital.

A 58-year-old man from Tawau, Sabah became the third Malaysian to die on March 20.

In Sarawak, two MPs –Wong Ling Biu. (Sarikei) and Kelvin Yii (Kuching) – have tested positive for the virus, prompting those who had been in close contacts with them to go for health screening tests.

The federal government has announced an additional allocation of RM160 million for 26 hospitals nationwide to contain the outbreak.

Just months ago, the pandemic was confined to China. Today, it has spread too many countries.

The MCO in Malaysia entails comprehensive restriction on movements and public gatherings, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.

With the enforcement of this order, all houses of worship and business premises are closed except for supermarkets, wet markets, grocery shops and convenience stores selling daily necessities.

Also closed are all educational institutions, including tahfiz centres.

All government and private premises are closed too, except for those providing essential services, namely  those involved in water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, postal, transport, irrigation, oil, gas, fuel, lubricants, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire brigade, prison, port, airport, security, defence, cleaning, retail and food spplies.

The MCO involves a comprehensive restriction on all Malaysians travelling abroad. Those who have just returned from overseas are required to undergo a health check and to self-quarantine for 14 days.

When announcing the MCO, the prime minister repeatedly appealed to Malaysians to stay at home during the 14-day period.

Muhyiddin explained that the objective of the order was to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“It (the order) is not meant for you to go back to your hometown nor to attend weddings or go shopping or for vacations. The purpose is for all of you to stay at home. Stay at home and protect yourself and your family,” he said.

Since then, the same advice has been repeated by many ministers and people’s representatives.

Even as the prime minister made his call, many Malaysians left for their respective hometowns, causing congestion on highways, packing bus terminals and increasing the risks of the outbreak.

What is scary about Covid-19 is that it is infectious and deadly. As explained by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing, “It moves from humans to humans. The closer humans stand to each other, the faster it spreads and the faster it kills.”

In Sarawak, most of the cases are imported.

“It is for this reason that one of the preventive measures is for the people to shun crowded places,” explained Deputy Chief Minister and State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.

“That is why the movement control order is now coming into force. That is why we do not want people from the cities or towns to rush home to their longhouses or villages in rural areas.

“We also do not want big crowd in coffeeshops, restaurants, airports, buses and so forth,” he added.

 Although only takeaways were allowed, on the first day of the movement control order in Kuching, many members of the public were found having breakfast  in coffeeshops, prompting personnel from local councils to advise the people to opt for takeaways and go straight home. Police teams also went round, advising the public to follow the MCO.

By March 19, Kuching South City Council ordered a new directive to all food operators in the city – close by 8pm.

Police have been busy setting up road blocks, advising those who are loitering to go home and comply with the MCO.

Because of the apparently highly unsatisfactory level of compliance to the order, today, the armed forces, namely the army, navy and air force will be helping the police to enforce the movement control order.

In combating Covid-19, there are valuable and useful lessons Malaysia and the rest of the world can learn from China. On March 19, the republic marked a major milestone in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic when it recorded zero domestic infections for the first time since the outbreak.

There were no new cases in Wuhan where the virus first emerged in December last year. Wuhan, home to 11 million people, was placed under strict quarantine on Jan 23.

If China can overcome Covid-19, so can Malaysia – but with the full support of its people. So, friends, if you are not a provider of essential services, stay at home, protect your family and yourself.