Movement Restrictions: More public places shuttered as panic buying grips consumers

Fears of a contagion and a possible lockdown drove thousands of consumers to empty shelves at grocery stores and sundry shops

by FAREZZA HANUM RASHID & NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by ARIF KARTONO

RELEVANT authorities and administrators banned gatherings, shuttered non-essential public places, postponed classes at colleges and universities, and closed surau and mosques to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The move by the respective state-linked agencies, religious affair authorities, operators and higher education administrators was the most drastic step taken as the number of coronavirus victims topped 500 people yesterday.

Fears of a contagion and a possible lockdown drove thousands of consumers to empty shelves at grocery stores and sundry shops.

It is the first time locals are in panic-buying mode since the virus began in China in December as Malaysia registered 125 new positive cases yesterday, bringing the tally to 553. Malaysia has the highest number of coronavirus cases within Asean.

Social media was flooded with pictures of supermarkets packed with shoppers and long lines at the counters.

A shopping centre in Bangsar had run out of instant noodles, eggs and chicken. In Mont Kiara, people push trolleys filled with food items.

Other neighbourhood outlets like 99 Speedmart, Mydin and Econsave were busy restocking the shelves to cater to the surge of shoppers. Essentials like rice, biscuits, toilet rolls and noodles were being snapped up.

Institutions and agencies in several states had announced the temporary closures of various operations.

The National Science Centre and the National Planetarium were shuttered following the instruction of Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

All public facilities under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry are also closed with immediate effect until April 30 as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus.

All public and community libraries under the National Library (PNM) are closed from today until April 30. All PNM programmes and activities have been postponed.

The Youth and Sports Ministry has temporarily shut down all National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute facilities after an athlete tested positive for Covid-19.

Several higher learning institutions cancelled physical lectures with classes to be conducted online. Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) in Pagoh, Johor, are conducting classes via the Unternet. More universities are expected to follow suit.

UTHM VC Prof Datuk Dr Wahid Razzaly said on UTHM’s official Facebook page that the campus will be closed from March 16-19 to facilitate a comprehensive decontamination process. A staff member was confirmed positive Covid-19 on Sunday and is being treated at Permai Hospital.

In Negri Sembilan, the Fatwa Council announced that all mosques and surau in the state will be closed for 10 days, beginning today. Similar instructions to close surau and mosques and cancel related activities were made by religious authorities of Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur and other states.

In Sarawak, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg instructed kindergartens and tahfiz schools to close for two weeks effective today, while all schools in the state are advised to extend their school holidays until March 29.

“Higher education institutions are to defer their new academic session by two weeks, effective tomorrow (today),” he said yesterday.

All official Sarawak government functions with more than 50 persons will be cancelled or postponed until further notice. Public sports facilities in the state are also closed effective today.

All foreign and domestic visitors coming into the state and returning Sarawakians, will be issued with a 14-day Stay Home Notice.

A total of 34 positive cases were recorded in the state — 29 were imported cases — while 186 persons-under-investigation are awaiting results of laboratory tests.

In Sibu, Maybank Sibu Sentral is closed for two days since yesterday for sanitisation after one of its employees tested positive.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said “there is little left to salvage” of the tourism industry as Matta postpones its Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Fair 2020.

“As it is our moral and social responsibility to place human lives first, all Matta Fairs scheduled throughout the country have been deferred until the country returns to normalcy,” he said.

Many companies have instructed their staff to work from home. Some critical industries are implementing contingency plans, including separating the staff in different locations to prevent a total shutdown of services.