Just nearly 26,000 Malaysians in the United States (US), including 1,200 students, have registered with the Malaysian Embassy – which is still way below the actual number of Malaysians based on the US government’s statistics, said Malaysia’s ambassador to the US Datuk Azmil Mohd Zabidi.
“Only 20 per cent of the students have registered. This is why the embassy don’t have complete information on the number of Malaysians (in the US).
“We hope those (Malaysians) yet to register with the embassy can do so, so that important news or the latest information can be channelled to them,” he said in an interview via Skype from Washington DC on Buletin Bernama, Friday night.
And in an email reply to Bernama, the ambassador emphasised the importance of communication via email to enable Malaysians to obtain accurate information and to make it easier for the embassy to quickly contact them.
Meanwhile, Malaysians in the US who wish to return to Malaysia can still do so by using commercial flight, said Azmil.
In early March, the embassy released an advisory stating that those without enough financial means or comprehensive insurance coverage should return to Malaysia as soon as possible.
“Thankfully, most Malaysians have followed the advisory and successfully returned (to Malaysia),” he said.
Azmil said the embassy is also monitoring the state of the Malaysian students in the US.
The embassy, via Education Malaysia and with the cooperation of the National Assembly of Malaysian Students in America (NAMSA), have assisted many Malaysian students with obtaining accommodation after their universities decided to empty the hostels, he added.
“Among them is the Emergency Accommodation Initiative, where students facing problems with accommodation can directly contact NAMSA or the embassy to get help,” he said.
Asked about the challenges faced by the embassy, Azmil cited the insufficient supply of articles such as face masks and gloves, which are important in preventing the risk of infection to the embassy’s frontline staff.
“We also get numerous requests from the Malaysians in the US to provide them with face masks,” he said.
Azmil said the launch of Malaysia’s Diplomatic Equipment Stockpile by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein is a welcome move to supply the embassy’s staff with their needs while they are providing the much-needed consular services.
The immense size of the US also posed a challenge for the embassy to arrange face-to-face meetings with Malaysians who live far away from the embassy or consulates.
“However, the embassy as well as the consulates in New York and Los Angeles operate a 24-hour hotline and email so that Malaysians can contact us if they face problems,” said the ambassador, adding that the mission also provide updates through the website or social media.
Azmil said there are no COVID-19 positive cases or deaths among Malaysians in the US so far.
“I urge all Malaysians in the US to continuously take care of themselves and to comply with the precautionary measures taken by the Federal government and local governments for the sake of their safety and well-being,” he said.