PETALING JAYA, Mar 18: Today marks one year since Malaysia first went into lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, with the nation’s international borders still strictly controlled.

FMT takes a look at the major events in Malaysia’s one year under the movement control order (MCO).

Rush for essentials, balik kampung

Soon after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the MCO, Malaysians made a dash for essentials, with supermarkets and grocery stores packed with people making last-minute purchases.

Bread became a scarce commodity as people bought more than they needed. A few days later, loaves of bread were seen in garbage bins after their expiry dates.

There was also a mad rush across state borders as some headed back to their hometowns before the MCO came into effect.

The first EMCO

Two townships in Simpang Renggam, Johor, were the first to go under an enhanced MCO, or EMCO, on March 27, as barbed wires were set up and the army was deployed to ensure no one entered or exited the area.

The EMCO meant a total lockdown with residents not allowed to leave their homes at all and every economic sector ordered to close to allow health workers to screen each resident for the virus. When the EMCO was declared at the Selayang wholesale market, some foreigners were seen climbing through the barbed wire fencing to exit and enter the zones.

Turtle sightings, cleaner rivers as nature heals

While Malaysians griped and complained about being forced to stay indoors, mother nature seemed more grateful for the lockdown with otters found playing in river banks and turtles laying eggs at Port Dickson.

A month into the MCO, environmental NGO Global Environmental Centre said it received numerous reports from communities living along Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak about better water quality along certain stretches of the waterways.

Penang’s Sungai Pinang, which was black before that, turned emerald green as factories stopped dumping effluents into its waters.

Business booms for glove manufacturers, e-hailing firms

With people forced to hunker down at home, delivery companies saw a spike in demand with more riders joining up to offer their services. Meanwhile, a surge in international demand for rubber gloves saw glove companies such as Top Glove, Supermax Corp and Hartalega raking in money amid the pandemic.

Dr Noor Hisham among top officials in pandemic management

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was listed by China Global TV Network (CGTN) as among the world’s top three officials at the forefront of managing the Covid-19 outbreak.

Noor Hisham was named alongside the United States’ Dr Anthony Fauci and New Zealand’s Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Immigration raids in KL

In May, the immigration department started launching numerous sting operations in Kuala Lumpur to arrest undocumented migrants, with Menara City One the first location to be raided.

This sparked a backlash from civil societies and health experts, who warned this would cause other undocumented migrants to go into hiding, thus affecting the government’s efforts to trace possible Covid-19 patients.

Economic sectors reopen as Malaysia goes into recovery mode

With the number of Covid-19 cases falling, more economic sectors started to reopen in April 2020, while restrictions were further lifted as the nation transitioned into a conditional MCO (CMCO) on May 4.

Soon after that, Malaysia entered into the recovery MCO (RMCO), with nearly all social activities, including religious activities, and those in the education and business sectors reopened in stages.

Zero local Covid-19 cases

Malaysia reported zero local Covid-19 infections on July 1, the first time since going into lockdown in March. There was only one imported case, involving a Malaysian returning from Turkey.

The nation would go on to record zero local cases for a few days, while infections stayed at single digits.

Kids return to school

Form Five and Six students were allowed to return to school from June 24 to help them prepare for their major government examinations, with cases significantly reduced.

All schools nationwide reopened from July 15, with students returning to classes in staggered numbers.

Tabligh cluster officially ends

The tabligh Covid-19 cluster, traced to a gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque in late February, officially ended on July 8.

The nation’s largest Covid-19 cluster at the time, with more than 3,375 cases and 34 deaths, started with a gathering attended by some 14,500 Malaysians and 1,500 foreigners with its first few cases reported on March 11.

Face masks compulsory in public

Face masks were made mandatory in public places from Aug 1, with the same rule applied to commuters on all forms of public transportation. It was not necessary, however, if there was no one else around and physical distancing was practised.

The government previously did not make the wearing of face masks compulsory over fears it would financially burden the lower-income group.

Third wave of infections

Sabah started recording a spike in Covid-19 cases in September, with infections reported in prisons and detention centres involving undocumented migrants.

The Sabah polls were held later that month despite warnings from experts, causing the virus to eventually spread to the peninsula thus sparking the third wave of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia. The problem was worsened by the fact that many returned from Sabah without having to undergo quarantine.

Government tightens restrictions

In response to the surge in cases, Putrajaya reimposed movement restrictions with several states and federal territories going under a CMCO again while people returning to the peninsula from Sabah were made to quarantine for 14 days.

The restrictions were coupled with a ban on interstate travel, hampering many economic sectors’ hopes of kickstarting an early recovery from the pandemic.

SPM postponed for third time

Major secondary school examinations, including Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), were postponed for the third and last time in November. The SPM exam finally started on Feb 22, 2021.

The exams were first postponed from Oct 5 to Nov 16 due to the MCO and then to Jan 6, 2021 to give students more time to study.

Interstate travel reopens, but CMCO remains

In a surprise move, Putrajaya lifted the ban on inter-district and interstate travel on Dec 7, despite the CMCO in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah being further extended.

The government said this decision was made after taking into account the need to balance health and economic concerns.

New year, new MCO

With Covid-19 cases rising even more than before, with infections in factories particularly rampant, the government reimposed the MCO in five states and the three federal territories, although with fewer restrictions than the first lockdown. Dubbed MCO 2.0, it would later be extended to the entire nation, except for Sarawak.

Breaking local Covid-19 records

During the MCO 2.0, Malaysia reported a record-high of 5,728 cases on Jan 30, while the highest number of deaths were recorded on Feb 18, with 25 fatalities that day.

The highest number of clusters reported was 19 while the most daily recoveries was 5,718, both on Feb 16.

Vaccination programme rolls out

The government started rolling out the national Covid-19 immunisation programme on Feb 24, with Muhyiddin becoming the first person in Malaysia to get the jab.

In what the nation hopes to be the first step towards normality, the programme will be rolled out in three phases: first for frontliners, then senior citizens and high-risk individuals, and finally, the rest of the population aged 18 and above.

No more blanket MCO

On the eve of the first anniversary of the original MCO, the government announced that there would be no more blanket MCOs. Instead, there will be localised lockdowns.

Muhyiddin also announced a RM20 billion Pemerkasa package aimed at revitalising and jumpstarting the economy.-FMT


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