The announcement earlier today of the first two fatalities from Covid-19 should awaken Malaysians to the seriousness of this pandemic, and that the government’s announcement of a two-week movement control order – and suggestion of social distancing – is not to be taken lightly.

While there is no official curbing of mobility, people should stay put wherever possible – isolation may not sound attractive, but it’s better than being dead. Really, it’s the best means to combat the outbreak and avoid becoming a statistic.

UPDATE (March 18): Last night (March 17), due to huge crowds lining up in police stations, the IGP announced that the police had withdrawn the plan to impose interstate travel restrictions. No restriction will be imposed on those travelling between states today, but a new decision is expected to be made later today following a meeting about this matter.

The police is doing its bit to ensure that everyone attempts to toe the line in terms of limited movement. To this end, the inspector-general of police (IGP) Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador stated earlier this evening that all interstate travel will require permission from the police during the period, as The Star reports.

He said that members of the public wishing to travel to other states will be required to notify their respective police station chiefs and submit an application for travel. They will be required to bring any documents to verify their business there, and exemption letters will be issued to those who need to travel for important matters or emergencies. The process, he said, would be simple and only take a while.

Abdul Hamid said that at this juncture, the police will not openly enforce checks, but will use the next few days as a litmus test to see if the public adheres to the order before taking the next course of action, should the need arise. He said the public should not take advantage of this leeway by attempting to travel without a permit or obtain one to go on a holiday.

“Our role is to control the movement of the public inter-state. This exercise is crucial to stop the outbreak of the virus. If we find that people are still flouting the order, we will decide on taking stricter action,” he said, urging public cooperation on the matter.