Malaysia, Bangladesh Extend COVID-19 Lockdowns

Hadi Azmi, Kamran Reza Chowdhury, and Ronna Nirmala
Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka and Jakarta
MY-covid1000.jpg Malaysian firefighters wear protective suits before spraying public areas with disinfectant to fight coronavirus in Bangi, a town in Selangor state, April 10, 2020.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The Malaysian and Bangladeshi governments on Friday extended curbs on people’s movements to control surging coronavirus infections within their borders, as the global death toll linked to the pneumonia-like disease broke past 100,000 with almost 1.7 million confirmed cases.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous nation, meanwhile imposed a partial lockdown in the capital Jakarta and declared its toughest social-distancing rules to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let me remind you that the war on COVID-19 is not yet over. The fight is still on,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a nationally televised speech.

“We must be ready to face this situation for a considerably longer period of time,” he said in announcing that the so-called Movement Control Order (MCO) would be extended until April 28. “It might continue on for several months before we are truly able to eradicate this outbreak 100 percent.”

Malaysia reported three new deaths Friday, taking the nation’s toll to 70, with 4,346 cases of infections.

Globally, almost 1.7 million confirmed cases have been recorded, with 101,526 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. At least 177 countries have reported infections.

The MCO, which started on March 18, was initially scheduled to end on March 31 but was pushed back to April 14. Under the order, schools and nonessential businesses have been closed, with people being required to stay at home.

The prolonged movement restrictions have had negative ripple effects on business activities in South and Southeast Asia, but leaders have undertaken separate moves to cushion the pandemic’s impact by preparing multibillion financial packages to stabilize their economies.

In his speech, Muhyiddin said several sectors of the economy would be re-opened in stages and a special cabinet panel would be formed to prepare a list of affected industries.

COVIDGRAPHTally Date April 6- 10.jpg

Bangladesh prolongs ‘public holiday’

In Dhaka, Bangladesh’s government ordered citizens to stay at home on Friday evening, augmenting for a third time orders that restrict their movements as measures to protect the public from the virus.

The ministry of public administration issued a notification banning the movement of people after 6 p.m.

“We have extended the public holiday until April 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Farhad Hossain, state minister for public administration, told BenarNews, referring to the lockdown. “We have also restricted the movement of people between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. up to April 25.”

He said people involved in providing emergency services, such as food, medicine, water and electricity, among others, would not be covered by the lockdown.

“We are not sure how long we need stay at home. Everything depends on the improvement of coronavirus situation,” he said.

On Friday, Bangladeshi health authorities recorded the country’s second-highest daily tally of coronavirus infections with 94 new cases, taking the national tally to 424. Officials said six new deaths pushed the death toll to 27.

“During the past 24 hours, 94 people were detected with COVID-19,” Dr. Meerjady Sabrina Flora, the director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told reporters.

Jakarta imposes partial lockdown; death toll tops 300

In Indonesia, authorities banned gatherings of more than five people and ordered residents to stay at home on Friday.

The Jakarta police department said it had mounted 33 checkpoints across the city of 10 million people to oversee the large-scale social restrictions, which will be in force for two weeks.

“This is to ensure that Jakarta residents comply with the rules,” Jakarta Metropolitan Police spokesman Yusri Yunus said in a statement.

Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan said the measures included closures of schools, places of worship, and businesses, except for establishments providing essential goods and services, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and telecommunications.

“For the next two weeks, all Jakarta residents are expected to stay home, reduce or even eliminate outside activities,” Anies said.

Restrictions include a ban on motorcycle taxis from carrying passengers and people from dining in restaurants. Violators could face fines of up to 100 million rupiah (U.S. $6,325), he said.

Indonesian health authorities reported 26 new coronavirus deaths, taking the nation’s toll to 306, the highest toll for an Asian nation outside China.

More than half of the deaths and 3,512 infections are from Jakarta, the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter, officials said.

On Thursday, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered all civil servants and security force members not to travel to their hometowns next month to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Jokowi said his government was evaluating whether to impose the prohibition on the rest of the nation. Indonesia employs about 4.4 million civil servants and 1.3 million police and soldiers, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The central government has faced criticism on social media over its reporting of coronavirus deaths, with independent health analysts saying the number could be much higher.

More than 770 suspected coronavirus victims had been buried in Jakarta cemeteries under COVID-19 protocols requiring bodies to be wrapped in plastic, according to news service Agence France-Presse. That number is five times more than the official 142 dead in the Indonesian capital, AFP reported Friday.

Thai workers stranded in Malaysia

As a result of Kuala Lumpur’s decision to extend its lockdown, about 100,000 Thai workers, most of them employed in eateries and the restaurant industry, would be required to remain in neighboring Malaysia, officials said Friday.

“They had intended to come back home right after the end of the original scheduled lockdown, but when it was extended until April that means their troubles were doubled,” Mongkol Sinsomboon, the Thai Consul-General to Kota Bharu, told BenarNews. “They don’t have jobs, no income, only expenses.”

In Thailand’s far south, Chonthan Sangpoom, vice director of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center, said the workers were required to stay in Malaysia.

“Those workers in Malaysia must stay there until the borders are opened again,” Chonthan told BenarNews.

Thai embassy officials and Thai volunteers in Malaysia said they were scrambling to gather basic relief supply for the stranded workers.

Thailand’s cabinet early this week approved borrowing to fund U.S. $58 billion in financial packages to help the health sector combat COVID-19 and assist businesses bounce back from the economic shock inflicted by the pandemic.

Pimuk Rakkanam in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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