Malaysia yesterday went into a two-week partial lockdown after COVID-19 cases in the country spiked to the highest in Southeast Asia, with some buyers rushing to supermarkets to stock up on essentials such as instant noodles.
Malaysia and the Philippines, which has quarantined about half its 107 million population, have imposed the toughest restrictions on movements of people in Southeast Asia, causing early confusion and chaos, although capital markets in both countries are to stay open.
Hours before the movement curbs began at midnight in Malaysia, thousands of people lined up at bus stations to go back to their hometowns.
Hordes of Malaysians who commute daily to Singapore for work crossed the border to spend the next two weeks there.
“Mass gatherings at bus terminals and then folks going all over the country from the active COVID-19 area in the country,” Malaysian doctor Christopher Lee wrote on Twitter. “Are we not potentially spreading it nationwide?”
Roads in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, normally some of the most congested in Southeast Asia on weekdays, were largely clear yesterday. Some cafes and restaurants opened, but customers were allowed only takeaway food.
Big supermarket chains such as Mydin put in measures including special shopping slots and cashier lanes for elderly people and people with disabilities, and limited the purchases of staples such as rice, flour, cooking oil, hand sanitizers and disinfectants.
“People coming and rushing is still going to see the disease spread,” said Ahmad Fauzi, 60, who had been up early to shop to avoid the crowds. “They should be more calm.”
Mydin managing director Ameer Ali Mydin said that supplies were adequate at his store, but that “people must understand that they cannot be too selective.”
The government of Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who only took office this month, has said that there is enough stock of essentials for the country of 32 million people.
Malaysia has shut its borders to travelers, restricted internal movement, closed schools and universities, and ordered non-essential businesses to stay shut.
Thailand has announced the closure of schools, bars, movie theaters, cockfighting arenas and other entertainment centers.
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