Lockdown in Malaysia 2021: Not A Big Surprise, MCO 2.0 Was Highly Expected

MCO COVID19 Lockdown Malaysia 2021

On 11th January 2021, the Prime Minister announced a stricter movement control order (MCO) for 6 states namely Wilayah and Selangor which encompasses ban on inter-state and inter-district. And a day after the MCO was announced and was due to take place, Malaysia recorded the highest number of COVID19 cases at 3,309 cases (on 14th, we set a new record with 3,337 new cases and 15 deaths). Image source: MOH.

Ever since I came back from Cambodia and the MCO was relaxed for the recovery of the economy, I had already expected that the number of COVID19 cases to increase as obviously there will be more travels, more interactions and more people getting relaxed with SOPs.

There was inter-district travel ban in place but all the sudden; the police road-block that appeared on Day 1 went missing on Day 2. Inter-state travels were no longer requires police approval and there was a sudden influx of people travelling from the south of the country to the north.

So it was not a big surprise to suddenly see a major spike in the number of cases in the last few months and it has come to a point where the medical services in this country are in serious danger of being overrun by the number of new cases. It was only a matter of time before the Government would be forced to implement the stricter version of the MCO before it gets too late.

MCO COVID19 Lockdown Malaysia 2021

(The do’s and don’ts and the SOP that need to be followed once the MCO takes effect. Infographic source: Bernama)

It finally happened on 11th January 2021:-

Selangor, Penang, Melaka, Johor, Sabah, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan will be placed under the Movement Control Order (MCO) beginning midnight Wednesday (Jan 13).

The second phase of the MCO for these states and federal territories is to stem the spread of Covid-19 which has been recording four-digit daily cases of late.

In announcing this, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the MCO would be in effect for two weeks until Jan 26.

Speaking during a special address aired live today, Muhyiddin also announced that interstate travel will not be allowed during this period for the whole country.

(Source)

And soon this was followed up with the declaration of Emergency till 1st August 2021 which now has attracted an equal number of praises and bricks.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has consented to a state of Emergency in the country until August 1, or until the current wave of Covid-19 subsides.

In a statement by Istana Negara, the Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the decision was made after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin called on the Agong yesterday.

(Source)

Personally, I was expecting the declaration of MCO 2.0 and Emergency to happen back in November 2020 when we celebrated Deepavali – nothing happened and we had scores of people travelling and the number of cases started to pile up.

Nothing was done during the Christmas long week holidays and till New Year holidays. At the same time, restriction and social distancing were getting more relaxed. Adding the salt to the wound, the political alliances and conduct in this country are in a bloody mess.

MCO COVID19 Lockdown Malaysia 2021

(The number of cases broken down by states – the Klang Valley and Sabah have the highest number of active cases. Image source: MOH)

The restaurant near the neighbourhood always packed with the dine-in customer – from initially has socially separated tables to closely arranged one. I had close relatives travelling up North and down South to visit relatives and for holidays.

In fact, I was supposed to be part of this group, travelling up North but I was worried that the Government would announce lockdown when one is least expected and at the last minute where it would not be easy to return back home.

I held back any travels in November and December due to the number of new COVID19 and I was anticipating a stricter MCO to be announced anytime. I just do not want to travel for pleasure anywhere in 2020.

In 2021, considering that I have brought forward annual leave and schools only starting on the 3rd week of January 2021, I arranged for a short trip up North to check on my parents-in-law and also to break the boring routine back at home. I was hoping that going on a working day would mean fewer cars on the highway, the hotel less occupied and there are fewer patrons at restaurants.

However deep down, I still had my doubts – the last thing I need was to be stranded up North, away from home and away from work. I had relatives up North so long term accommodations with meals were not an issue – I could bunk with them anytime. However, they don’t have a high-speed internet connection at home so working from home there is not a viable option even though I brought along my laptop and was ready to buy additional mobile data.

As part of our standard practice, we usually stay in hotels when we are up North mainly for one main reason – we want a clean, cosy room to come back for the night. The dilemma was whether to opt for 2 nights or 3 nights or cancel the hotel altogether and stay at the relative’s house.

The writings on the wall are clear – the situation at the hospitals is getting worst and in grave danger of being overrun. I expected an announcement of MCO which very likely includes an inter-state travel ban. So, a longer stay may not be feasible.

MCO COVID19 Lockdown Malaysia 2021 Vaccine

(The good news is Malaysia is already considering a number of COVID19 vaccines and the deployment will commence after the 1st quarter of 2021. Image source: MOH)

Despite the uncertainty, I decided to opt for 3 nights as per our original plan but be ready to leave to return home the very night if MCO comes in effect midnight. We kept checking for the latest news and even checked on rumours just in case it turns out to be true. The receptionist at the hotel check-in counter even told me that they had some last-minute cancellation due to the anticipated MCO.

My bigger concern is on the interstate travel ban – I did not mind the insane traffic jam that may happen if all those out of state decide to return back on the same night. I did not also mind if I had to lose money on the hotel room that has been paid. I do not want to be stuck in another state or drive inter-state only to be stopped at police roadblocks and asked to turn around.

But then a day before the announcement was made, the Government hinted that the MCO will not be enforced immediately. Ample time will be given to the people to prepare before the enforcement takes place. That I interpreted as having 1-2 days before the roadblocks are up (in actual fact, 4 days were given).

In the end, we managed to stick to our plans for the trip and came back 1 day before the MCO takes place. Now it has been extended to Friday before the inter-state travel is completely banned.

Hopefully, with MCO 2.0 couple with Emergency 1.0, we can start reducing the COVOD19 numbers in the country. The big question is, until when we need to enforce the MCO and see the numbers coming down for real.

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