Effect of Movement Control Order on businesses

Violation to the order can result in hefty punishment including imprisonment

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

EFFECTIVE today, the movement of all 32.6 million Malaysians will be limited for two weeks, following the government’s imposition of an unprecedented Movement Control Order (MCO).

The two-week order, which comes into action today until end of the month, is an effort to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, as the country continues to battle its second wave of cases.

In practical terms, the MCO means Malaysians will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food, get medicine, see a doctor for an emergency, or to go to work.

For businesses, only supermarkets, public markets, sundry shops and convenience stores selling essential goods are allowed to be open as usual.

Government and private premises are ordered to close, except for those involved in essential services.

Essential services according to the order include; water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, postal, transportation, irrigation, oil, petrol, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire prevention, prisons, ports, airports, security, defense, cleaning, food supply and retail.

Prior to the announcement of the order on Monday, the government had already called for the postponement of mass gatherings, and had advised Malaysians to practice social distancing or staying at least one metre apart from each other to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

However, as at press time yesterday, Malaysia recorded another 120 new cases and this brings the total number of Covid-19 cases to 673 — the highest in South-East Asia, followed by Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The country also recorded two deaths to the virus — a 34-year-old Malaysian man who attended the recent “tabligh” gathering in Sri Petaling, and a 60-year-old Malaysian man from Sarawak with a history of chronic illness.

Can Businesses Continue to Operate?

Should the nature of one’s business fall under the category of essential services, premises are allowed to be open and to operate as usual.

However, employees and employers of government and private companies that are non-essential, are advised to close their premises.

As the virus tightens its grip on the nation, the government is advising people to limit face-to-face contact, which means working remotely is the next best thing for most corporations.

Even restaurants and food stalls are permitted to open only for takeaways or through delivery services such as GrabFood or foodpanda.

Grab has said all of its services including GrabFood, GrabExpress, GrabMart and GrabCar will continue to operate as usual.

The government has also encouraged the public to discuss with hotels directly for refunds on bookings made before the MCO was announced.

Larger businesses such as shopping malls will also be limiting their operations to only essential shops. Sunway Malls said yesterday they will be maintaining the operations of its supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, ATMs and clinics.

Meanwhile, Golden Screen Cinemas said its theatres will be shuttered and events cancelled during the 14-days period.

TGV Cinemas Sdn Bhd and MBO Cinemas (MCAT Box Office Sdn Bhd) also wrote similar notes to their moviegoers to inform of a temporary closure and suspension of operations during the two weeks.

What if the MCO is Breached?

The order is being enforced under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967.

Under Section 11(4) and Section 24(a) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act, failure to adhere to the restricted MCO is a criminal offense.

According to the act, any person guilty of an offence shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or fine, or both.

In respect of a second or subsequent offence, the person will be liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding five years, or fine, or both.

In respect of a continuing offence, the person will be liable to a further fine not exceeding RM200 every day during which such offence continues.

Under the Police Act 1967, the government has also given the power to police officers to issue orders to require persons to remain indoors.

In section 31(1) of the act, a commissioner or chief police officer may, if he considers it necessary in the interest of the security of Malaysia or public order, by order require — subject to such conditions or exemptions as he may deem expedient — every person within such area of his jurisdiction as prescribed in the order to remain within doors between such hours as may be specified therein.

Under the act, the commissioner or chief police officer may also, as he deems fit, bring or cause to be brought to the notice of all persons likely to be affected thereby the contents of such order.

A person remaining out of doors during the hours specified in the order shall be guilty of an offence under the act.