COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia
|COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia|
Confirmed COVID-19 cases by state (territory) as of January 2021
Distribution map of COVID-19 confirmed cases by district (city) as of January 2021
Distribution map of COVID-19 active case by district as of January 2021
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Sungai Buloh, Selangor|
|Arrival date||25 January 2020|
(11 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)
|Date||18 March 2020|
The COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The medical response to the outbreak in Malaysia is overseen by Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah under the Health Ministry of two successive governments. Preparations to stockpile equipment, detect and monitor cases, and treat COVID-19 patients were reported to have been initiated as early as 6 January 2020, following a World Health Organization (WHO) report on a late-December 2019 outbreak of "pneumonia of unknown cause" in the city of Wuhan in Hubei, China.
The virus was confirmed to have reached Malaysia in late January 2020, when it was detected on travellers from China arriving in Johor via Singapore on 25 January, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Hubei. Reported cases remained relatively low at first and were largely confined to imported cases until localised clusters began to emerge in March 2020; the largest cluster at that time was linked to a Tablighi Jamaat religious gathering held in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur in late February and early March, leading to massive spikes in local cases and exportation of cases to neighbouring countries. Within a few weeks, Malaysia had recorded the largest cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia, breaching the 2,000 active cases mark by the end of March, from fewer than 30 cases at the beginning of the month. By 16 March, presence of the virus was reported in every state and federal territory in the country.
As jumps in cases began to occur in early March and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong expressed great concern over the escalation of the outbreak, measures to combat the outbreak were later announced by Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin via live nationwide telecast on 13 March 2020. By 16 March, a nationwide "Movement Control Order" (MCO), intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing, was announced to be in effect between 18 and 31 March. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) also published a federal gazette on 18 March 2020 that restricts individuals from travelling to other states that have been declared as coronavirus-affected areas. On 25 March, the MCO was extended by an additional two weeks, until 14 April, as the rate of new cases per day remained consistently high. The MCO was further announced to be extended until 28 April on 10 April, and to 12 May on 23 April. A gradual easing of restrictions was implemented, the first phase after the lockdown is the "Conditional Movement Control Order" (CMCO) on 1 May, which allows most businesses to open on 4 May under strict SOPs, followed by a "Recovery Movement Control Order" (RMCO) as the second phase from 10 June. Originally slated to expire on 31 August, the RMCO has been further extended to 31 December 2020, with selected sectors remaining closed and strict travel restrictions from multiple countries remaining in effect due to continued detection of imported cases.
A third wave has been occurring since a resurgence of COVID-19 cases after the Sabah state election in September 2020, and CMCO was reinstated for almost all states from November 9 to December 6; Sabah was to enter a strict MCO but the plan was downgraded to a CMCO. On 21 November, 6 December and 28 December 2020, relaxed RMCO restrictions were imposed for states outside Sabah, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and parts of Johor, Negeri Sembilan, and Penang, which extended their CMCO until 14 January 2021. On New Year's Day of 2021, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that RMCO has been extended to 31 March 2021 as daily new cases remain high. Due to concerns over the worsening of COVID-19 outbreak in the country, together with the fact that the healthcare has reached its breaking point, on 11 January 2021, the government announced that MCO restrictions would be re-introduced to the states of Malacca, Johor, Penang, Selangor, Sabah and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan between 13 and 26 January 2021. Subsequently, Kelantan and a part of Sarawak implemented MCO from 16 January 2021, while Negeri Sembilan implemented the same measure from 19 January 2021. Finally, the government coordinated MCO throughout the country except for Sarawak (which largely implemented CMCO except for Sibu), from 22 January to 4 February 2021 so far. A nationwide state of emergency was also declared on 12 January 2021 by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to curb COVID-19 spread, hence suspending Parliament and State Legislative assemblies and granting the Muhyiddin government emergency powers until 1 August 2021.
Initially reporting the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia in March and early-April 2020, daily active cases in Malaysia have declined steadily from a peak of 2,596 cases in early April to a fluctuation of fewer than 250 cases by late June. The country's case count has since been eclipsed by other Southeast Asian countries: the Philippines (on 14 April 2020), and Indonesia (on 15 April 2020). Periodic case spikes from subsequent clusters within local communities, immigrant enclaves, immigration detention centres, workers dormitories, prisons, and health facilities continue to be reported since the initial outbreak. The most serious outbreak since mid-2020 originated from prison populations in Sabah in September 2020, exacerbated by its state election and the government's failures to impose adequate restrictions in time. The subsequent wave, significantly more widespread than the earlier wave, elevated the severity of the country's outbreak above those in other Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, and East Timor. At over 180,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, over 42,000 active cases, and over 600 deaths, the country ranks third in the number of cases behind Indonesia, and the Philippines and fourth in the number of deaths in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
The Ministry of Health originally referred to this disease as the "2019 Novel Coronavirus". Some media referred this disease as the "Wuhan Coronavirus". During the onset of the outbreak, the Malaysian media called it the "radang paru-paru Wuhan" in Malay, meaning "Wuhan Pneunomia". Then some media changed the name to "radang paru-paru koronavirus baru" (new coronavirus pneumonia) in Malay. The Ministry of Health and most media now refer to the disease as "COVID-19", as suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 February 2020.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
Malaysia reported its first three cases on 25 January 2020, all of whom were Chinese nationals who had visited the country. By 30 January, the number of cases had risen to eight. In response, the Ministry of Health published guidelines on the virus and established designated hospitals in all of Malaysia's states and federal territories to manage any positive cases. Local authorities also advised Malaysians traveling to China to stay away from animal farms and markets in that country. Following several earlier suspected cases involving Chinese nationals, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments suspended all direct flights with China.
In response to a surge of cases originating in South Korea, the Malaysian Government imposed a ban on visitors from South Korea on 26 February, including foreign nationals who had visited Daegu and Cheongdo. Malaysia experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases following a four-day Tablighi Jamaat event that was held at Kuala Lumpur's "Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling" between 27 February and 1 March 2020. By 20 March, 48% of the country's COVID-19 cases (3,347) had been linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster. In response to the rise in cases nationally, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Malaysia would enter into lockdown on 18 March 2020. On 17 March, Malaysia reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus: a 60-year-old priest from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kuching, Sarawak and a 34-year-old participant of the Muslim religious gathering in Sri Petaling from Johor Bahru, Johor.
On 3 April, a spike in 217 new cases was reported, bringing the total number to 3,333. The Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah attributed this spike to active detection in areas affected by Enhanced Movement Controlled Order, a stricter version of the MCO. In response to rising cases, the Government extended the movement control order until 28 April.
On 1 May, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the country's lockdown would be eased on 4 May, allowing most businesses to reopen while maintaining a ban on mass gatherings. From 21 May, a spike of cases occurred among detainees at immigration detention centres in Bukit Jalil and Semenyih, Selangor, causing the number of cases to rise to a total of 7,819 cases by 31 May. On 22 May, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin entered into quarantine for 14 days after an official who attended a post-Cabinet briefing the previous day tested positive for COVID-19.
On 1 June, a total of 7,857 cases were reported while the total number of recovered and deaths stood at 6,404 and 115 respectively. On 6 June, Director-General Noor Hisham encouraged members of the public to wear face masks following advice from the World Health Organization that it helped to reduce infections. By 30 June, there were 164 active cases, with a total of 8,639 cases. The number of recovered had risen to 8,534 while the death toll stood at 121.
On 1 July, there were 144 active cases with a total of 8,640 cases. A total of 8,375 had recovered while the death toll stood at 121. On 20 July, Prime Minister Muhyiddin announced that the Malaysian Government would consider making face masks compulsory following the emergence of 13 clusters after the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on travel and businesses the previous month. By 31 July, there were 207 active cases with a total of 8,976 cases. The number of recovered had risen to 8,644 while the death toll had risen to 125.
On 1 August, there were 213 active cases with a total of 8,985 cases. A total of 8,647 have recovered while the death toll stayed at 125. By 31 August, there were 160 active cases with a total of 9,340 cases. A total of 9,054 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 127.
At least two regional outbreaks have occurred since July 2020. In late-July and August, several clusters emerged in Kedah and Sarawak. In September 2020, a major outbreak in Sabah initially detected in two prisons led to community spread within the state, a sharp increase to over 1,000 active cases, and the detection of infections throughout the country through returnees from Sabah following the 2020 Sabah state election. Malaysian authorities also attributed the surge of cases in Sabah to the entry of illegal immigrants from Indonesia. The country passed the 10,000 cases mark on 16 September 2020, and 11 deaths, primarily in Kedah and Sabah, were reported between the month ends of August and September. By 30 September, there were a total of 1,124 active cases with a total of 11,124 cases. A total of 9,967 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 136.
In 1 October, there were 1,334 active cases with a total of 11,484 cases. A total of 10,014 have recovered while the death toll had risen to 136. By 31 October, there were 10,051 active cases with a total of 31,548 cases. A total of 21,248 have recovered while the death toll had risen to 249.
On 18 November, the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia officially reached the 50,000 mark. The following day, the Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that over 9,000 of the country's COVID-19 cases were detected through the MySejahtera contact tracing app launched on 20 April. By 30 November, there were a total of 10,578 active cases with a total of 54,759 cases. A total of 54,759 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 360.
By 4 December, the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia had reached the 70,000 mark. By 10 December, the total number of cases had reached the 80,000 mark while the death toll had risen to 402. By 18 December, the total number of cases had exceeded 90,000. On 23 December, the Malaysian Health Ministry confirmed that it had identified a new COVID-19 strain dubbed the “A701B” strain, which is more infectious than usual and similar to a strain found in South Africa, Australia, and the Netherlands. By 24 December, the total number of cases had exceeded 100,000. By 31 December, Malaysia had reported a total of 113,010 cases, 88,941 recoveries, and 471 deaths.
By 6 January 2021, the number of recovered had exceeded 100,000. On the same day, the Director General reported there were 252 active clusters in Malaysia. On 7 January, a record number of 3,027 new cases were reported, bringing the total number to 128,465.
Preventive measures by government
Movement Control Order
Beginning from 15 March, Malaysia saw a significant jump in active cases. The Prime Minister of Malaysia held a live nationwide telecast on 16 March 2020 at 10:00 pm (UTC+8) to announce the decision of the federal government in implementing the Movement Control Order (MCO). Based on the live addressing that evening, six restrictions have been imposed:
- The public is prohibited to mass gather or attend massive events including religious, sports, social and cultural activities. All worshiping locations and business premises should be closed except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores and convenience stores that sells everyday necessities. For Muslims, all religious activities in mosques including Friday prayers are adjourned in line with decision made on 15 March 2020 by the Special Muzakarah Committee Meeting of the National Fatwa Council.
- Malaysians returning from abroad are required to undergo health check and self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Tourists and foreign visitors are restricted to enter the country.
- Closure of all kindergartens, government and private schools, including daily schools, boarding schools, international schools, tahfiz centres and other primary, secondary and pre-university institutions.
- Closure of all public and private higher education institution (IPTs) and skill training institutes.
- Closure of all government and private premises except for essential services (water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, postal, transportation, irrigation, oil, gas, fuel, lubricants, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire, prison, port, airport, safety, defence, cleaning, retail and food supply).
- Phase 2, announced on 25 March, extends the MCO to 14 April, as new cases continued to climb.
- Phase 3, announced on 10 April, extends the MCO to 28 April, as the number of cases was projected by the WHO to peak in mid-April.
- Phase 4, announced on 23 April, extends the MCO to 12 May.
- On 10 May, the Conditional Movement Control Order was extended until 9 June, the fourth extension since 18 March. Unlike the others, this extension is scheduled to last about a month as Phase 1 of post-lockdown of the restrictions.
- On 6 June, the Director-General confirmed that the movement control order would remain in force since Malaysia is still being monitored under the Prevention and Control of Infections Diseases Act 1988. On 7 June, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the Conditional Movement Control Order would end on 9 June, with the country moving into the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase as in Phase 2 of post-lockdown for the rest of 2020.
- On 28 August, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the Recovery Movement Control Order would be extended until 12 February 2021 in view of the second wave of cases. In view of that, on 12 October, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government has agreed to enforce Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya effective from 12.01am on 14 October to 27 October 2020.
- On 20 October, employees in the private and public sectors, at the management and supervisory levels, in areas under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) which are Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Labuan and Sabah have been instructed to work from home starting Thursday, 22 October.
- On 7 November, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the Malaysian Government would be reinstating its CMCO throughout peninsular Malaysia with the exception of Kelantan, Perlis, and Pahang between 9 November and 6 December 2020. In addition, CMCO measures for Sabah, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Putraya, which were scheduled to end on 9 November, were extended until 6 December.
- On 11 January, Prime Minister Muhyiddin re-imposed MCO restrictions on mobility, economic activities, and public gatherings in the states of Malacca, Johor, Penang, Selangor, Sabah and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan between 13 and 26 January 2021 due to an ongoing surge of cases and deaths.
On 25 October 2020, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah of Pahang rejected Prime Minister Muhyiddin's request for him to declare a state of emergency in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Malaysia.
On 16 December, Prime Minister Muhyiddin invoked a state of emergency to stop by-elections scheduled to be held in the Bugaya constituency of Sabah and the Gerik constituency in Perak scheduled for January 2021. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Abdullah had assented to the request to impose the states of emergency within these two electorates in response to a third wave of infections, which had risen to a total of 86,000 cases and 422 deaths by 16 December.
On 12 January 2021, King Abdullah of Pahang declared a national state of emergency until at least 1 August 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19 and in response to a political crisis involving Prime Minister Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional government. Under this state of emergency, parliament and elections were suspended while the Malaysian government was empowered to introduce laws without approval.
Epidemic prevention for immigration
With the movement control order put in place since 18 March, all citizens have been prohibited from leaving the country with foreigners also prohibited from entering the country.
Since the first wave of the virus was reported, thermal scanners were introduced at border points with the Malaysian health authorities placed on high alert. After the ban on travellers from Hubei on 27 January, the Malaysian federal government extended its ban to the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang on 9 February. The state of Sabah expanded their travel restriction to all points of entry by air, sea or land starting 8 February, involving everyone except Sabahan citizens with recent travel history to mainland China within 14 days, while Sabahan citizens with such travel history must undergo a 14-day quarantine at home. The state of Sarawak closed its borders to all Chinese visitors with immediate effect on 1 February, except for people with employment passes, student passes or long-term social visit passes. However, those visitors were required to undergo self-quarantine at home for 14 days. With the increasing cases in South Korea, both Sabah and Sarawak government began to extended its travel restrictions into the country from 1 March. On 4 March, Sarawak further added Italy and Iran into its travel restrictions list.
On 5 March, Malaysia added seven regions towards its travel restriction list, which include Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna in Italy; Hokkaido in Japan; and Tehran, Qom and Gilan in Iran. By 10 March, Sabah also began to added Italy and Iran into its restrictions list. On 11 March, Malaysia announced a full restriction on foreign nationals directly from Italy, Iran and South Korea starting from 13 March, while Malaysians from those countries will be quarantined for 14 days. Following the 13 March Denmark lockdown, Malaysia has added the country into its travel ban list effective from 14 March.
On 6 April, visitors from the following regions can enter Malaysia by air exclusively: Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda and Western Sahara.
On 1 September, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines would be unable to enter Malaysia due to a spike of cases in those countries effective 7 September.
On 7 September, the Immigration Department banned nationals from 23 countries with a high number of COVID-19 cases including the United States, Brazil, India, Russia, Peru, Colombia, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iran, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Iraq, Philippines and Indonesia. The ban includes permanent residents, participants of the "Malaysia My Second Home" program, and expatriates, professional visit pass holders, the spouses of Malaysian citizens, and students.
Overseas travel alert and quarantine arrangements
The following are warnings and quarantine arrangements for inbound and outbound travel:
|Alert level||Country||Date of issue||Cancellation date||Note|
|Prohibit||China||9 February 2020||In force||In response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Mainland China, the government announced that travellers from the three Chinese provinces of Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang are banned with immediate effect from 9 February.|
|13 March 2020||In force||In response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iran, Italy and South Korea, the government announced that all Malaysian citizens, permanent residents and people with long-term residence permits from that date must be self-quarantine at their homes for 14 days after returning from the three countries.|
|Prohibit||Denmark||14 March 2020||In force||In response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Denmark and its recent lockdown, the government announced a travel ban to the country.|
|Prohibit||All countries||18 March 2020||In force||With the movement control order put in place since 18 March, all citizens have been prohibited from leaving the country with foreigners also prohibited from entering the country.|
Testing and treatment centres
On 5 January, the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) under the Ministry of Health Malaysia began operation. By early-February, 57 hospitals were reported to provide screening services for coronavirus, while among them, 26 government hospitals are responsible for the confirmation of coronavirus and the suspected patients. With the rapid increase of infections, a further total of 409 sites across the country have been gazetted by the federal government as quarantine zones for coronavirus patients comprising public universities, community colleges, technical institutes, former National Service (PLKN) camps, training centres, polytechnics and hotels owned by federal ministries, departments, agencies and statutory bodies. As of 2 May 2020, 5,484 beds at 40 hospitals, 3,873 beds (in addition to 2,100 beds on standby) at 26 hospital extension centres/low-risk COVID-19 centres, 422 ICU beds, and 1,059 ventilators have been allocated for COVID-19 patients.
On 8 April, a consortium of associated laboratories in Malaysia comprising Gribbles Pathology, Quantum Diagnostics and Clinipath Malaysia launched the country's largest COVID-19 collection and testing programme to increase testing capacity. Malaysian public universities also providing research and scientific capacity with 10 diagnostic laboratories at public higher learning institutions in the country nationwide have been called as part of a joint initiative by the Higher Education and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministries to help the Health Ministry in conducting 16,500 coronavirus tests daily. In spite of further capabilities to conduct more tests, the Health Ministry had stated that the country is yet to find its suitable rapid test kits to solved the increasing backlog of pending result cases along with the revelation that the existing supply of coronavirus reagents test kits could only last for another week which causing the Health Ministry to source from other countries including Singapore. As a response, the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) has called on the federal government to ensure sufficient coronavirus test kit reagents for the country especially among the Malaysia's eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak which are reportedly struggling to source test kit reagents.
The Solidarity trial, launched by WHO to compare the safety and effectiveness of treatment protocols which included chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, interferon-beta, lopinavir/ritonavir and remdesivir, would be conducted in nine government hospitals across the country.
On 3 July, Minister of Health Adham Baba announced that both Malaysian citizens and foreign nationals traveling to Malaysia would be required to pay fees when undergoing COVID-19 tests under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Fee for Coronavirus Diseases 2019 (COVID-19) Detection Test) Regulations 2020, which came into effect on 29 June.
On 24 December, Malaysian Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed that the National Security Council would require the compulsory screening of all foreign workers from 1 January 2021 so that action can be taken against employers who refuse to have their workers tested.
In mid-March, Malaysian Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals (MVP) Sdn Bhd reportedly pleaded for co-operation and support from the federal government, with its executive director claiming that their company faced multiple postponed meetings in an attempt to meet the health minister to request for a sample from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) of Malaysia. The IMR was set to begin testing existing local vaccines in collaboration with the MVP and University of Malaya's Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre (TIDREC) by 25 March. The local vaccine testing will be conducted in UM's TIDREC laboratory, which is one of Malaysia's modular biosafety level 3 (BSL3) facilities previously used to study highly pathogenic agents such as MERS coronavirus and Nipah virus with the vaccines to be firstly tested on the infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which is an avian coronavirus, as previous research shows that the IBV in poultry has high genetic similarity with the human coronavirus.
On 6 October, the engineering company Bintai Kinden entered into a distribution and licensing agreement (DLA) with the American–based firm Generex Biotechnology Corp and its subsidiary NuGenerex Immuno-Oncology Inc to distribute their COVID-19 vaccine in Malaysia through its subsidiary Bintai Healthcare. The company will also have the first right of refusal to commercially exploit the vaccine within Australia, New Zealand and the global halal market.
On 18 November, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin signed an agreement with Chinese Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang for Malaysia to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines developed in China.
On 19 December, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba confirmed that the Malaysian Government would be concluding an agreement with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase COVID-19 vaccines on 21 December 2020. This is the third agreement that the Malaysian Government had concluded with vaccine suppliers including Covax and Pfizer to address the country's vaccine needs.
On 22 December, the Malaysian Government signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to obtain an addition 6.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which account ten percent of the country's vaccine supply. Prime Minister Muhyiddin confirmed that Malaysia had secured 40% of its vaccine supply through joint agreements with Covax, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
On 11 January, the Health Ministry ordered an additional 12.2 million doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in response to rising cases and the tightening of lockdown measures.
Repatriation of Malaysian nationals abroad
|Record Form of Repatriation for Malaysian non-main officials abroad|
|Departure date||Number of passengers||Departure airport||Arrival airport|
|4 February 2020||107||Wuhan – Tianhe||KL – Sepang|
|26 February 2020||66|
|21 March 2020||212||Tashkent – Islam Karimov|
|22 March 2020||55 (comprising 46 Malaysians, eight Singaporeans and one Indonesian)||Tehran – Imam Khomeini|
|27 March 2020||162||HCMC – Tan Son Nhat|
|30 March 2020||179||Amritsar – Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee|
|31 March 2020||144||Yangon – Mingaladon|
|1 April 2020||121||Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi|
|2 April 2020||160||Medan – Kualanamu|
|11 April 2020||110||Islamabad – Fateh Jang|
The Malaysian government has made the repatriation of its citizens abroad a priority; beginning with the first repatriations from China. During the first repatriation, two persons were found to be infected with the virus and were subsequently quarantined and treated in the country until they have fully recovered.
On 21 March, a total of 212 Malaysians arrived from Uzbekistan through a flight sponsored by the Uzbekistan government which is also being used to repatriated Uzbek citizens in Malaysia. On that same day, 372 Malaysians departed Tamil Nadu on two chartered flights. On 22 March, it was reported that the Malaysian government was waiting for the Indian government's permission to organise six more flights to evacuate Malaysians still in India.
On 31 March, the Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all Malaysians returning from overseas would have to undergo a compulsory two-week quarantine at designated quarantine centres around the country. That same day, Deputy Foreign Minister Kamaruddin Jaffar confirmed that 4,374 Malaysians were stranded abroad due to the travel restrictions and delays created by the global coronavius pandemic. This figure only consists of Malaysians who had bought return tickets but were unable to return due to travel restrictions. According to Kamaruddin, 2,156 Malaysians are stranded in India, 680 in Indonesia, 337 in Thailand, 226 in Australia, 153 in New Zealand, 128 in Pakistan, and 121 in Saudi Arabia.
On 5 April, the Johor Immigration Department announced that Malaysians with Singaporean work permits would be required to take swab tests in Singaporean clinics and hospitals to show that they are free of the coronavirus to return to Johor. That same day, Deputy Foreign Minister Kamaruddin announced that the Government had brought back 4,811 stranded Malaysians from affected countries. He also upgraded the number of Malaysians stranded abroad to 2,298: 1,016 in India, 172 in Thailand, 136 in New Zealand, 128 in Pakistan, 122 in Vietnam, 83 in Saudi Arabia, 77 in Australia, 66 in the Philippines, 65 in Sri Lanka, and 43 in Nepal.
Repatriation of foreign nationals
On 18 April, the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur advised US nationals in Malaysia wishing to return home to make commercial arrangements as soon as possible unless they had made plans to remain in Malaysia. The US Embassy also clarified that the United States Government was not planning to charter flights to evacuate its citizens. Based on the January 29 circular from the Malaysia Ministry of Health, foreigners in Malaysia will not have to pay for COVID-19 testing or outpatient treatment at government hospitals; this announcement was reiterated by the health director-general Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah on March 23, 2020, when asked to clarify a statement made by the prime minister that foreigners would have to pay for COVID-19 testing.
On 16 May, the Malaysian Government announced that it would be allowing "Malaysia My Second Home" (MM2H) programme members who were stranded overseas to return to Malaysia from 17 May. However, they must undergo testing for COVID-19 in the place that they are in and must be certified free of the coronavirus in order to enter Malaysia. They will also be quarantined for 14 days.
Bans on mass gathering events
Immediately after the spikes of the cases which related to the Sri Petaling Tabligh event, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announces that all events that involving mass gathering in any genre including international, religious, sports, meetups and social must be cancelled or postponed until 30 April 2020. However, the end date for the ban on mass gathering events are subject to revision depending on the situation of the outbreak. In addition, Registrar of Societies (RoS) bans all parties registered with RoS from organising any meeting and activities until 30 June 2020.
Following a third wave of cases in the later half of 2020, several Christian faith communities including the Catholic Archdiocese in Kuala Lumpur, SIBKL, and Full Gospel moved their services and choirs online to Facebook, YouTube, and music apps.
Impact on schools and universities
On 15 April, the Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced that the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3) examinations for standard six and form three students have been cancelled for 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also announced that all other major school examinations including the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) would be postponed to 2021 and August 2020 respectively.
On 23 June, the Ministry of Education announced changes to school term holidays in order to help schools better plan lessons that had been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and Movement Control Order. The mid-term break would be reduced from nine days to five days. The end of the year break in schools in Group A states (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu) would be reduced from 42 days to 14 days. The end of the year break in Group B states (Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya) would be reduced from 41 days to 13 days. The Education Ministry confirmed that the school year for 2020 will now total 168 days. In response, former Education Minister Maszlee Malik criticised the Ministry for not consulting with teachers and teachers' unions including the National Union of the Teaching Profession and West Malaysia Malay Teachers Union prior to amending the school term.
Following a nationwide resurgence of cases in October and early November, the Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced that all schools and school hostels in Malaysia will close between 9 November 2020 and 20 January 2021 in tandem with the renewed Conditional Movement Control Order restrictions coming into force on 9 November.
On 22 December 2020, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all international students with the exception of students from the United Kingdom will be allowed to return to public and private institutions of higher learning. Students returning to Malaysia will have to undergo a COVID-19 swab test and quarantine procedures.
Economic stimulus plan
On 27 March, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launched an economic stimulus package known as the "caring package" worth RM250 billion. Of these, RM128 billion was used to protect the welfare of the people and RM100 billion to support businesses, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The government also announced a RM600 million allocation on 23 March to the Ministry of Health for the purchase of equipment and to hire contract personnel, especially nurses. It has also announced that contributors of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) can withdraw up to RM500 per month for 12 months.
An allocation of RM130 million has also been announced and will be distributed equally to all states to help overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The details of the plan are:
- Budget of RM500 million to the Ministry of Health to enhance the health and resources of the ministry.
- The government raises special allowances for healthcare workers from RM400 to RM600 a month from 1 April until the end of the pandemic.
- Additional special allowance of RM200 per month for frontliner for police, immigration, Customs Department, Malaysian Civil Defence Force and RELA Corps personnel.
- Aid of RM1,600 to households earning less than RM4,000, with RM1,000 paid in April and RM600 in May.
- National Concerns fund with RM10 billion worth of cash payments will be provided to groups B40 and M40, including private workers, farmers and fishermen. These include RM1,600 to four million households earning RM4,000 and below; RM1,000 for households earning RM4,000 above; RM800 for Malaysians aged 21 and over who earn RM2,000 and below; RM500 for Malaysians aged 21 and over earns between RM2,000 and RM4,000.
- RM200 of one-time assistance to affected higher education institution students.
- Free internet from April onwards until the end of the MCO.
- The joint government of TNB will increase the allocation of RM530 million for a discount of between 15% and 50% for electricity usage up to 600 kW [sic] per month for six months from the April bill.
- Exemption of rent for Program Perumahan Rakyat and public housing for six months.
- Insurance and takaful companies set aside RM8 million to cover COVID-19 inspection costs up to RM300 per policyholder.
- Government to provide a payment of RM500 to approximately 120,000 e-hailing drivers starting 1 April.
- The Government and Bank Negara Malaysia will set aside an additional allocation of RM4.5 billion for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs which will consist of five initiatives.
- One-off RM500 aid for 120,000 e-hailing drivers nationwide with an allocation of RM60 million. This is in addition to the one-time assistance announced for taxi drivers announced in the previous stimulus package.
- The government will pay the salaries incurred by contractors involved in the service sector, such as cleaning services and food supplies cooked at government agencies.
- The government will introduce a subsidy of RM600 a month for three months for employers with a 50% reduction since 1 January, for workers with less than RM4,000 in salaries.
- The government will continue all projects allocated in the 2020 Budget, including ECRL, MRT2 and the National Sustainability and Sustainability Plan (NFCP) in line with its focus on ensuring sustainable economic development.
- Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) is tax-exempted for all sectors for six months beginning April 2020.
- Federal government premises such as school cafeteria, nursery, cafeteria and convenience store are exempt from rent for six months.
- Government pensioners to receive RM500 cash assistance.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launched a special stimulus plan on 6 April, worth RM10 billion aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to mitigate the impact of action control orders (MCO). Muhyiddin said that SMEs and micro-enterprises accounted for two-thirds of the country's manpower and contributed 40% of the country's economy. This is in addition to other economic stimulus plans that increase cash flow to ensure that the economy will not collapse.
On 5 June, the Prime Minister announced the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. The details of the plan are:
- Nearly RM9 billion to address rising unemployment.
- The Wage Subsidy Programme to be extended for another three months.
- Employers can apply for the Wage Subsidy Programme if they were not allowed to operate during CMCO.
- Penjana has 40 initiatives worth RM35 billion, of which RM10 billion is a direct fiscal injection by the government.
- An employment subsidy programme worth RM1.5 billion for companies hiring unemployed people.
- Companies that employ Malaysians under 40 to be given RM800 per worker while those that employ Malaysians above 40 or disabled people to be given RM1,000, for a period of six months.
- Public transport users can pay RM30 per month for unlimited rides from 15 June to 31 December.
- Grants for daycare centre operators for abiding standard operating procedures.
- E-vouchers for those ordering childcare services online.
- Up to RM3,000 incentive of individual income tax for fees paid by parents to daycare centres and kindergartens.
- RM70 million for the Shop Malaysia Online campaign.
- RM2 billion by the banking sector to assist SMEs, with a threshold of RM500,000 per SME.
- RM400 million to fund the Penjana microcredit by Tekun and Bank Simpanan Nasional, with RM50 million for female entrepreneurs.
- RM1 billion for the tourism industry under the Penjana Tourism Funding.
- Cash-flow aid by SME Bank for G2 and G3 contractors that are awarded minor government projects.
- RM10 million for the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre to fund social enterprises for social projects.
- The Penjana Nasional fund worth RM600 million to drive the process of digitalisation of businesses and innovation.
- RM75 million for draft policies related to the gig economy.
- RM50 million matching grant for gig workers' EPF and Socso contributions.
- RM75 million to e-wallets, or RM50 per person.
- Full tax exemption for purchase of locally assembled cars from June to 31 December.
- RM50 million for the Malaysian Investment Development Authority for promotional and marketing activities.
- Full exemption of tourism tax from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.
- Exemption of services tax on lodgings and accommodation services from 1 September 2020 to 30 June 2021.
- Waiver of penalty to companies that are late in submitting payment for sales and services tax.
- Free 1GB of Internet data from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until 31 December.
- Stamp duty exemption for transfer of property limited to the first RM1 million of home price.
- Stamp duty exemption for loan agreements for purchase of home between RM300,000 and RM2.5 million effective for sales and purchase agreements signed from 1 June 2020 to 31 May 2021.
- Real property gains tax exemption for disposal of up to three properties from 1 June 2020 to 31 December 2021.
Some people have been arrested for allegedly spreading false information about the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 17, 2020, police and the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have opened 265 investigations on COVID-19 related fake news. A total of 30 people have been charged, 11 were served with a warning notice and 18 others pleaded guilty.
On 23 July, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that it will be compulsory for people to wear face masks in public spaces such as markets and public transportation from 1 August, with violators facing a RM1,000 (US$235) fine.
In late December 2020, the Human Resources Minister Saravanan Murugan announced that the Human Resources Ministry would be launching a new multi-lingual app to enable both domestic and foreign workers to inform the Government about employers providing inadequate accommodation and not following health standard operating procedures while protecting their identities.
On 28 December, the Ministry of Human Resources confirmed that it was filing 30 charges against the glove factory Brightway Holdings and two of its subsidiaries in Selangor for alleged offences under the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) in relation to the unsanitary housing conditions of workers.
On 25 June, The Sun Daily reported that animal shelters were facing financial difficulties while having to take care of numerous unwanted cats and dogs. The Lost Souls Animal Souls Shelter in Kuala Selangor had taken to growing organic vegetables in order to cover its operating expenses. Under the Animal Welfare Act, abandoning pet animals is an offense punishable by a fine of between RM20,000 and RM100,000 or a jail term of up to three years.
Births and deaths registrations
On 19 April, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that registration of births and deaths during the movement control order (MCO) will be allowed to be delayed up to 90 days from the date the MCO ends. Ismail Sabri also announced that the Ministry of Home Affairs had decided that those who needed to replace their lost MyKad identity cards could make an appointment with local National Registration Department branches.
Economy, trade and tourism
Stocks on Malaysia's stock exchange of Bursa Malaysia tumbled during the outbreak as investors sold securities due to the expected economic impact caused by the virus, which along with other emerging stock markets are predicted to remain until June 2020. With China as Malaysia's largest trading partner, the country's economy was directly impacted and economic experts have warned the prolonged virus outbreak could hit the country gross domestic product (GDP) hard. Malaysia which also largely relied on tourism and being among the top destinations for Chinese tourists, suffered a stark decline of tourist arrival from Mainland China due to the outbreak with the tourism industry hit hardest; costing around RM3.37 billion losses until March. Malaysian states highly dependent on tourism sectors and being the point for Mainland Chinese visitors such as Johor, Malacca, Penang, and Sabah were among the heaviest affected with hotel bookings and food stalls have reported large loss in businesses. These subsequently forced the states to shift their focus to the Southeast Asian market due to the decline of Mainland Chinese tourists. Regardless the large losses incurred by tourism businesses, a number of Malaysians have voiced their concerns over the spread of the virus and urging a ban on travellers from China to the country with some 149,000 in support of the call. Aberdeen Standard Investments of Malaysia also predicted the country currency of Malaysian ringgit (MYR) to weaken further throughout the local and worldwide outbreak which exacerbate further by instable local political scene in the country.
On 27 June, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri estimated that the tourism and cultural sectors had lost RM45 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the Government introduced a Special Fund for Tourism to help small and medium-sized businesses affected by COVID-19.
Following a new wave of outbreaks in October 2020, the Malaysian Association Of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) announced that they would be temporarily closing all cinemas in Malaysia from 2 November to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Panic buying and essential item shortages
The increase in cases and public awareness on the threat posed by the virus has exacerbated panic buying of surgical masks and hand sanitisers which were selling like hot cakes within a short period. Malaysian cities, such as Johor Bahru and Kota Kinabalu, have reported shortages on surgical masks, while a cleaning company in Shah Alam reported a higher demand for hand sanitisers due to the outbreak. There were reports that some pharmacies and traders have been selling masks with higher prices than the controlled price set by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry of Malaysia which can lead to fines of up to RM10,000 (US$2,387). This also includes reports of some people being scammed by unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the pandemic situation, with a further total of 501 fraud cases involving losses amounting to RM3.5 million reported throughout the MCO period resulting to the arrests of 37 scammers. Despite the increasing shortages of masks in the country with both pharmacies and suppliers struggling to meet the increasing demands, the federal government has assured the supply of masks to be replenished with a total of 10 million masks to enter Malaysian markets in the nearest time. With the rapid spread of the virus infections into several more states such as Penang and Sabah in the country, panic buying has seen an increase nationwide with people began to packing excessive essential items. This causing some of the major supermarket operators in the country to continuously assured the public that there is adequate supply of essentials and urging most people to not engage in panic buying despite the recently announced move by the federal government to impose movement control within the country. The federal government also in the consideration to ban face masks exports as a result of the increasing mask shortages with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to raise the increasing shortages issues of surgical masks and hand sanitisers to the Malaysian Cabinet. On 18 March, the enforcement to ban face masks export was gazetted under the Control of Supplies (Prohibition on Export) – (Amendment) Regulations 2020 covering four type of face masks. Apart from enacting law banning face masks exports to meet the struggling domestic public demands, the federal government announced that it will import 10 million face masks from China by stages to increase nationwide supply and assisting the frontliners with the importation of face masks from other countries also being allowed. A further total of 24.62 million face masks to be distributed among Malaysians nationwide has been announced by the federal government on 8 April.
Sporting and other events
The pandemic outbreak has forced the cancellations and postponements of many events in the country; including both local and international. All sports and co-curricular activities in schools were postponed with immediate effects as announced by the country Ministry of Education. Major Anglican and Catholic Masses in West Malaysia as well as in Sabah and Sarawak were also postponed, while annual cultural events in Sabah such as the Kaamatan (Kadazan-Dusun festival) and Kalimaran (Murut festival) have been cancelled. Despite Muslim Friday sermon (except for the state of Perlis on 13 March) are not suspended in the earlier stages of the virus spread, the Yang-di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia has called for shorter sermon and every mosques in the country must provide forehead thermometer, hand sanitiser and face masks as part of the prevention measures. A guidelines on Friday sermon has been released by the Religious Affairs Minister of Malaysia. Finally on 17 March, every mosque and suraus activities including Friday sermons and congregational prayers postponement were announced after receiving the permissible order by Yang di-Pertuan Agong which covering all states with a sultan while other states without a sultan shall refer to the announcement made by their respective state muftis. Malaysia's ethnic Chinese Qingming Festival have been hung fire while Hindu temple festival and also Vaisakhi gatherings have been cancelled. With the Malaysia national football team will play the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the Malaysians planned to play a friendly game against Bahrain before facing the UAE and Vietnam. It was later announced that the friendly would not take part due to severe outbreak in Malaysia and, later, Bahrain. Further sporting events such as golf's Maybank Championship and other local tournament were immediately called off while other sporting events such as the 2020 Sukma Games, badminton's Malaysia Open, football's M-League, hockey's Azlan Shah Cup, squash's Asian Team Championship and Malaysian Schools Sports Council events were either cancelled or postponed.
Relaxation of restrictions
On 1 May, the Malaysian Government announced that it will be relaxing Movement Control Order restrictions from 4 May as part of its plan to gradually restart the country's economy. Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong confirmed that all public transportation services would resume on 4 May. As part of the fourth phase of the Movement Control Order, two family members will be allowed to buy food and other daily essentials. The easing of MCO drew criticisms from politicians and healthcare experts over concerns that it was too much too soon, and by 3 May, over 420,000 members of the public had signed a petition objecting to the conditional MCO and calling for the government to stay with the MCO.
On 3 October, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the Malaysian Government would not be re-imposing lockdown measures despite a spike in cases as the majority of cases were reported in detention centres and isolated districts.
On 7 June, the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan announced that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall will allow open markets, morning markets, night markets and bazaars to reopen in stages after the implementation of the Recovery Movement Control Order on 15 June.
On 22 June, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that cinemas, theatres and other live events would be allowed to reopen from 1 July, with a limit of 250 people.
On 10 July, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that family entertainment centres including game arcades, karaoke centres, indoor funfairs, edutainment centres for children, and kids' gymnasiums can resume operations from 15 July. However, discos, pubs, and night clubs cannot reopen yet.
On 3 June, Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced that the Government would be distributing guidelines for reopening schools to teachers on 4 June as part of efforts to reopen the education sector. On 6 June, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that hair and beauty salons will be able to reopen on 10 June.
On 10 June, Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin confirmed that schools in the country would begin reopening in stages from 24 June, with priority being given to students taking secondary and equivalent international leaving exams. As part of social distancing measures, schools will serve pre-packaged food and all students will have their temperatures checked when entering schools.
On 29 June, it was reported that both public and private pre-schools, kindergartens, nurseries and day care centres would resume operations from 1 July. In addition, several businesses have been allowed to reopen including spas, wellness and foot massage centres, cinemas, theatres and "live" event venues. The Government has also allowed a range of social functions including meetings, conferences, seminars, course, training sessions, weddings, engagement parties, anniversary, birthday celebrations, and religious gatherings to be held. In addition, swimming in public, hotel, condominium, gated community and private pools have also been allowed.
On 1 July, the Education Minister Mohd Radzi announced that schools for other students will reopen in two stages from 15 July. Forms One to Four students, Years Five and Six pupils, remove class students and Form Six Semester 1 students will return on 15 July while Years One to Four primary school pupils will return to school on 22 July. He also confirmed that the 2021 academic year would be decided at a later date.
On 14 July, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that driving schools would be allowed to resume their courses and training.
On 21 June, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that couples whose marriage registration had been delayed as a result of the Movement Control Order could not complete the process at all permitted NGOs in the country including clan organisations, temples, churches, and religious bodies. On 22 June, Yaakob announced that the Government would announce on Wednesday (24 June) whether the ceremonies would be allowed soon.
Places of worship
On 28 May, the Ministry of National Unity announced that a total of 174 non-Muslim houses of worship have been allowed to resume operations from 10 June according to the Standard Operating Procedure for Houses of Worship in Green Zones including having a maximum number of 30 worshipers, subject to the size of the premises. These house of worships include those under Fo Guang Shan; the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council, and the Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia. Marriages at temples, churches, and religious associations have been postponed until 31 July 2020.
On 15 June, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all 5,230 non-Muslim places of worship would be allowed to reopen but had to adhere to social distancing guidelines including taking one-third of their usual capacity and requiring attendees to download the MySejahtera application.
On 3 July, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri clarified that foreigners would not be allowed to attend congregational prayers at mosques and surau until the Department had studied reports from the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department regarding the situation in mosques and surau.
On 26 June, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that sectors and industries under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture such as such as meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, travel and trade fairs, spa, wellness and reflexology centres would be allowed to open from 1 July. However, tourism businesses are required to abide by social distancing measures, limit crowds to 200-250 people, check customers' temperatures, wear face masks, and provide hand sanitisers. While reflexology centers provided by the blind are allowed to reopen, only Malaysians can work in spas, wellness, and reflexology centres.
On 7 June, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that interstate travel would be allowed from 10 June except in areas classified under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO).
On 13 June, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Malaysians from peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Labuan would be allowed to enter Sarawak without having to seek permission from the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) and take COVID-19 PCR tests prior to leaving for the state.
On 27 June, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong agreed that their governments would collaborate to establish a Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) allowing residents from both nations who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to periodically return to their home countries for short-term home leave.
On 14 July, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced that cross-border travel and traffic between the two countries will resume on 10 August 2020 under two schemes: the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA). The Reciprocal Green Lane will allow essential business and official travel between the two countries while the Periodic Commuting Arrangement will allow Singaporean and Malaysian residents who hold long-term immigration business and work passes to enter for work purposes.
On 23 July, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all travellers entering Malaysia would have to undergo mandatory quarantine at hotels and quarantine centres commencing 24 July. On 30 July, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee warned that foreigners refusing to pay the mandatory quarantine costs of RM 4,700 would have their long-term social visa passes revoked. Malaysians only have to pay half the quarantine cost.
On 13 December, the Director General of Health Noor Hisham announced that the Health Ministry has reduced the quarantine period from two weeks to 10 days for all travellers and close contacts of Covid-19 positive patients.
Funds and aid on the pandemic
Exchange of aid between Malaysia and other countries
January–February aid to China
Malaysian aid organisation #OpsHarapan aimed to collect 10,000 N95 face masks for its relief efforts to Wuhan. A total of 18 million pieces of medical gloves were donated by Malaysia to assist China in their struggle against the virus. The Malaysia's state Government of Sabah has raised RM2 million for the "Wuhan Fund" which will be channelled to China as a sign of solidarity with the country during the outbreak. The state government fund's earlier target was RM1 million although the amount received exceeded the initial target when a local philanthropist contributed RM40,000 (US$9,548). The fundraising was organised in a joint event called "We Love, We Care" by the Sabah government and Chinese associations. A group of musicians in Malaysia also published a song to support China in their struggle against the virus titled "You Are Not Alone" which was featured in a show in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur.
March–April aid to Malaysia
On 23 March 2020, the Malaysian government urged local PPE manufacturers to step their production due to reports that Malaysia's healthcare workers faced a shortage of PPE, resorting to clingwrap and plastic wrap for making DIY protective suits which had to be changed up to 5 times per day. On 16 March 2020, Malaysia's Prime Minister announced that the Chinese ambassador in Malaysia has declared China's willingness to help by supplying face masks and disinfectants. The first medical supplies were sent to Sungai Buloh Hospital on 19 March. A further 100,000 face masks were sent by the President of China-Asia Economic Development Association to Malaysia. Along the same day, Chinese Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma further announced that through his foundation, a total of 2 million masks, 150,000 test kits, 20,000 protective suits and 20,000 face shields will be sent to four Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia to aid these nations in their struggle against the virus. A further total of 1,000 face masks, 20,000 medical masks, 100 protective clothing and 100 goggles were contributed by China specifically for the Malaysian police forces. China's Consulate-General in Kota Kinabalu also has announced that medical aid to be dispatched to Sabah to aid their struggle against the virus and reciprocate the people's of Sabah recent assistance to Mainland China during the outbreak. On 25 March, a further total of 5,500 test kits were delivered to Malaysia's Health Ministry by China through its several business entities operating in Malaysia. On 26 March, 20,000 N95 face masks were delivered by China for the Malaysia's state of Sarawak frontline healthcare workers. By 29 March, China delivered a total of 83 boxes of face masks with 2,000 pieces to Malaysia's state of Sabah. A further 170,000 boxes of face masks, 1,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE), 200 pairs of goggles, hand sanitisers and surgical masks were delivered by China to the Sabah state government on 30 March. Another 20,000 surgical masks destined for Sabah's healthcare frontliner workers were delivered in early April. A total of 30,000 face masks were delivered by China through its Consulate General in Kuching specifically for the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee. Malaysia has asked China's medical experts to share their experience with Malaysia's frontliners, to be accomplished through a videoconference between their doctors on 26 March 2020. On 13 April 2020, Malaysia's health ministry announced that Malaysian hospitals will run out of PPE supplies in two weeks, calling upon NGO's and other parties to donate their PPE supplies.
Aid from other countries
The Malaysian government was also given aid from the United Arab Emirates, which included 600,000 face masks, 200 ventilators, about 100,000 test kits and 50,000 protective clothings. Neighbouring Singapore had donated 5,000 universal transport medium (UTM) swabs, a critical component in test kits which can test for a case of the virus within minutes. Malaysia also among the seven countries in Taiwan further aid lists following the former request of face masks supplies, with Taiwan has began to starting its second round of surgical mask donations to severely hit countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia from 9 April after its donations to Europe and the United States been fulfilled. Taiwanese Tzu Chi foundation also donating essential food and equipment to hospitals and clinics in Malaysia. Turkey-based Independent Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association's (MUSIAD) had distribute free face masks to shoppers at a mall in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur on 11 April to assist the country efforts in their fight against the virus. Macdonald's Malaysia which is part of an American fast-food franchise donated food to about 50 hospitals in the country, to reach 15,000 healthcare workers, and also to other frontliners such as the police and army personnel.
Local pandemic fund within Malaysia
Following the severely strained healthcare system due to the increasing number of infections by the virus, Mercy Malaysia launched the "Covid-19 Pandemic Fund" to supporting medical services and the essential needs of marginalised groups within the country. Various Malaysian crowdfunding platforms joined hands in raising money to supply frontline health workers with critical protective equipment and supplies. The Malaysian Red Crescent Society also launched the #responsMALAYSIA (Malaysia's Response) initiative to support frontliners.
Various Malaysian states have launched their own stimulus packages and announced immediate financial aid in the form of rental waivers and deferment of student loan repayments to help their citizens to cope throughout the virus outbreak with the federal government of Malaysia also announced it will disburse a total of RM130 million equally among Malaysia's 13 states to help small traders, the infected victims and front-line staff especially those in the healthcare sector. The country Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, all other ministers and deputy ministers had contribute two months of their salaries to the COVID-19 Fund of Malaysia has been announced by the Prime Minister's Office statement issued on 26 March.
In February, Malaysia's home improvement retailer MR DIY distributed a total of 3.5 million free face masks nationwide to help curb the spread of the virus. Further in March, Coway Malaysia donated a total of 100,000 pieces of surgical face masks to PDRM in an effort to help safeguard police personnel who are on the frontlines during the global pandemic.
Various Malaysian banks such as Affin Bank, Agrobank, Alliance Bank, AmBank, Bank Islam Malaysia, Bank Muamalat Malaysia, Bank Rakyat, Bank Simpanan Nasional, CIMB, Hong Leong Bank, HSBC Bank Malaysia, Maybank, MBSB Bank, OCBC Bank, Public Bank Berhad, RHB Bank and SME Bank has offered measures including financial assistance for its customers amidst the virus crisis.
Local broadcasting and telecommunications companies aid
To keep the Malaysian public entertained during the movement control order period, both Malaysia's pay television and internet services of Unifi offers free access to all Unifi TV channels while its mobile prepaid of Unifi Mobile offers unlimited data. Astro also offers free access to all of its paid movie channels through both basic Astro and Astro GO mobile application. Starting from 1 April, all telecommunication companies in the country have been instructed by the government to provide free internet data usage to their respective customers throughout the movement control order period has been published in the website of Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). The MCMC has announced that Malaysia's mobile telecommunication companies of Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile will be offering its prepaid and postpaid customers free 1GB of high-speed data, which is to be used daily between 8 am to 6 pm.
Government relief assistance
On 27 March, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launched the federal government's RM250 billion Prihatin stimulus package to help people, businesses and the economy to weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prihatin stimulus package consists of RM128 billion for welfare assistance, RM100 billion to support small and medium businesses, RM2 billion to strengthen the country's economy, and a RM20 billion stimulus package that was previously announced by the government. The regional economist Brian Tan from Barclays, said that the central bank would cut interest rates to 1%.
Failure to contain the Tabligh cluster amidst a political crisis
Following significant increases in COVID-19 cases in the country originating from the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at "Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling" in Kuala Lumpur, attention has been directed at the failure of the leadership of the country preventing such large gatherings from being held and containing the spread of the cluster case.
Until 24 February, Malaysia was under a Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which Ministry of Health under Dzulkefly Ahmad had collaborated with Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah to prepare for the intake of COVID-19 patients, and had overseen the first month of the outbreak since 25 January with low volumes of cases, primarily imported. The Tabligh gathering, held from 27 February to 1 March, occurred within a week after the start of a major political crisis, which saw the collapse of the PH government on 24 February as a result of the defection of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) from the PH coalition, and an absence of a government until the formation of an unelected Perikatan Nasional (PN) government comprising a coalition of Opposition parties on 29 February. The Health Ministry would not have a minister for over two weeks until the appointment of Adham Baba on 10 March, just as spikes in cases began to be reported.
Adham would later use the Tabligh cluster incident to attack the previous PH government. In a 18 April 2020 livestreamed video conference call with Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, President of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) (a major component party in the PN government), Adham would accuse PH of failing to prevent the spread of the Tabligh cluster despite the absence of a functional government during the period, while erroneously referring to the gathering as having taken place for longer, between 27 February and 3 March, and claiming to have attended a World Health Organization (WHO) conference call with "500 countries" (which Adham later clarified to refer to "500 participants from all around the world"). Responding to Adham's accusation, Dzulkefly would rebuke Adham's politicisation of the health crisis, claimed that preparations have been made since December 2019, and suggested that prior knowledge of the gathering would more likely be known to the Minister of Home Affairs of the previous PH government, Muhyiddin Yassin, who at the time of the political crisis spearheaded a defection of PPBM from PH and has subsequently been appointed as the current Prime Minister for the PN government.
Advice from the Health Ministry
During a televised interview on Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM)'s Bicara Naratif on 19 March 2020, Health Minister Adham Baba advised the public that drinking warm water will help prevent COVID-19 infection as the virus will be flushed down to the stomach and the digestive acids will kill any virus. His remarks went viral on social media, with many netizens questioning his claim. Dr. Nur Amalina Che Bakri had criticised Adham, stating that there is no research evidence that stomach acid can kill the virus. Similarly, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah disputes Adham's statement, commenting that the Health Ministry's approach for patient treatment and management is always based on evidence. The remedy is thought to have originated as a commonly circulated social media post, and has been widely debunked by health experts, including the WHO, which has stated that while staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus infection.
Insufficient facemasks and pricing
Despite the country having four manufacturers of face masks with higher quality and also expensive price, minimal support was given by the government to these manufacturers to sustain their operations. Most of the masks produced by Malaysia were exported to high-income developed countries with little being supplied to the country's own healthcare institutions whereas 90% of face masks for these sectors and Malaysian markets originated from Mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, India and Thailand. With the countries local manufacturers struggling to fulfil the increasing overseas demands and with difficulties securing raw materials from China due to the outbreak, they were forced to seek materials from Europe which subsequently raised the price of masks. On 13 April, the Ministry of Health warned that supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were running low with only 2 weeks of stocks left.
Advice from the Women Ministry
On 31 March, in a campaign to avoid domestic conflict during the Movement Control Order period, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development released online posters advising women to dress up and wear make-up while working from home, refrain from sarcasm while asking for help with household chores, avoid nagging and attempt to inject humour by mimicking Doraemon's voice. The posters attracted widespread ridicule and were criticised for being sexist, stereotyping women and insinuating that women are responsible for domestic conflict. In response, the Ministry took down the posters and apologised in a statement for "tips that were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of certain groups".
Treatment of MCO violators
In an 26 April 2020 report, Human Rights Watch criticised the Malaysian authorities for imprisoning people for violating the country's movement control order, putting their lives at a relatively greater risk of being infected by the virus. More than 15,000 people have already been arrested for going against the orders on 18 March 2020.
Treatment of foreigners
According to Human Rights Watch and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, over 700 foreign migrant workers and refugees including Rohingya have been detained by Malaysian police during the coronavirus pandemic. In response to the arrests, the United Nations in Malaysia's Head of Communications and Advocacy, Ahmad Hafiz Osman, called for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless individuals to have access to health services and services without any fear of repercussions. On 11 May, 83 human rights and civil society organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Article 19, and the International Committee of Jurists have called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to address online hate speech and violent threats against Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.
On 5 June, National Security Council Sabah director Sharifah Sitti Saleha Habib Yussof confirmed that 5,300 Filipino "illegal immigrants" had been "stranded" at temporary detention centres in Sabah after the Philippines government refused to repatriate them due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. Between 1 January and 17 March 2020, the Malaysian Government had deported 3,347 illegal immigrants including 2,331 Filipinos, 816 Indonesians, and several Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi nationals prior to the implementation of the country's Movement Control Order on 18 March. Since the imposition of a Condition Movement Control Order in May, Sabah authorities have repatriated 322 Indonesian illegal immigrants.
On 21 June, Malaysian human rights NGO Aliran raised concerns about the living and working conditions of foreign migrant workers in Malaysia, many of whom had contracted COVID-19. Aliran also criticised "inflammatory" media coverage for fueling xenophobia and hostility against migrant workers.
On 25 June, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall curtailed refugees' access to the city's wholesale market, only allowing them entry if they possessed valid permits and were accompanied by Malaysians. The City Hall's decision also barred entry by refugees carrying cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This ruling was criticised by Yemen Refugee Union representative Dr Mohammed Al Radhi and Alliance of Chin Refugees coordinator James Bawi Thang Bik as discriminatory and inhumane towards refugees.
On 27 June, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin issued a statement that Malaysia could not take any more Rohingya refugees due to a struggling economy and dwindling resources. Malaysia does not recognise their refugee status and has turned away boats and detained hundreds of Rohingya refugees. Muhyiddin also urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to speed up the resettlement of Rohingya refugees in third party countries. 
In early July 2020, an Al Jazeera documentary titled "Locked Up in Malaysia's Lockdown" alleged that illegal migrants and foreign workers had been mistreated by the Malaysian authorities and subject to racism during the country's lockdown. The Malaysian Government criticised the documentary as "misleading" and "inaccurate", with Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob demanding an apology from the news network. The Royal Malaysian Police have launched an investigation into the documentary while the Immigration Department of Malaysia have sought to question a Bangladeshi migrant interviewed in the documentary. In response, several civil society organisations including the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) issued a statement calling on the Malaysian Government to cease intimidatory measures against media and prevent incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence against migrant workers. The Bangladeshi migrant, who was identified as Mohammad Rayhan Kaybir was subsequently deported to Bangladesh on 22 August.
On 13 August, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that foreigners entering Malaysia would have to pay quarantine charges and COVID-19 detection tests upon entering the country.
In January 2021, 50 former and current health workers urged Prime Minister Muhyiddin to give priority to immunising migrant workers and refugees, whom they described as the "silent epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks."
Treatment of the Minister of Plantation and Commodity Industries
On 22 August 2020, the Ministry of Health issued a statement stating that Khairuddin Aman Razali, minister of plantation and commodity industries had been compounded RM1,000 on 7 August 2020 after they found him violating the quarantine rules. The Kuala Nerus Member of Parliament is said to have paid the fine and he has also apologized and even promised to contribute the minister's salary from May to August to the Covid-19 fund. This is after four days of Seputeh Member of Parliament, Teresa Kok raising the matter in the Dewan Rakyat. However, the Director General of Health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah at the time told the media that Khairuddin's case is still being investigated by the police.
After about two months of investigation, the situation changed again when Bukit Aman announced that the Attorney-General's Chambers had decided not to take action against the minister, saying Khairuddin had not been given form 14B to undergo his quarantine on July 7.
On 31 October 2020, Malaysiakini, a Malaysian online news portal, tried to get some answers from the Ministry of Health on what happened in the case because the MOH had previously confirmed that Khairuddin had violated quarantine and imposed a compound on the offense. A question was put to Dr Noor Hisham, why the MOH issued a compound against Khairuddin and whether the compound would be canceled because the Attorney-General's Chambers found no offense committed. However, he declined to comment on the matter. "Under Act 342, the MOH has delegated enforcement powers to the police and the Attorney General. The case has been investigated by the police and the attorney general so I do not want further comment on the investigation," he said at a press conference in Putrajaya on that day. Noor Hisham refers to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988. He also did not answer questions if the ministry was conducting an internal investigation into the failure to issue quarantine orders to Khairuddin upon his arrival.
Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Regulations (Measures in Local Infected Areas) (No. 7) 2020, including allocating those returning from abroad for mandatory quarantine for 14 days. All returning residents must also undergo a Covid-19 swab test and then be sent to a quarantine center to perform a 14-day isolation period. Prior to 24 July 2020, those returning from overseas and being tested negatively still need to undergo quarantine but are allowed to do so at home. They are not allowed to leave the house for 14 days and must be re-tested on the 13th day before their quarantine bracelet can be removed. Khairuddin allegedly did not go through this process. From 24 July onwards, quarantine must be conducted at government-designated centers. The move was reintroduced after many residents violated the quarantine conditions at home. Khairuddin's case received public attention amid complaints of 'two-degree treatment' between ordinary people and dignitaries (VIP).
Criticism of pandemic management efforts
In January 2021, 50 current and former senior healthcare officials submitted a letter to Prime Minister Muhyiddin criticising the failure of the Movement Control Orders and other health interventions to reduce the spread of infections, which had created a strain on intensive care units at hospitals. These officials advocated the immediate formation of a national COVID-19 taskforce, ramp up testing, reduce the strain on the healthcare system by requiring people to self-isolate at home, expedite approval of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, and to give priority to immunising migrant workers and refugees.
Total confirmed cases Active cases Recoveries Deaths
Active cases in ICUs Active cases in ICUs on ventilators
Recoveries per day
Daily death cases
Tests per day
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