All arrests that have been made during the movement control order (MCO) have been in accordance with the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) and Penal Code. This was reiterated by senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today.

He said this in response to allegations made by certain quarters that the police had no authority to take action against offenders, and that the cops also had no authority to issue warrants.

“I want to make it clear that the police can take action based on Act 342, and that Section 3.1 of the same Act states that the health minister may appoint any suitable person to be an authorised officer with the power to take action against those who flout the MCO,” he said during his daily non-health press briefing earlier this evening.

“In addition, Section 3.2 also states that an officer authorised to act within the jurisdiction and duties under the Act is deemed to be a civil servant within the meaning of the Penal Code,” he explained, adding that the appointed officer – which included the police, military and the Malaysian maritime enforcement agency (MMEA) – was empowered to enforce the law and carry out duties relating to the Act.

The defence minister also revealed that the police and army had carried out 813 roadblocks nationwide yesterday, and had inspected 557,699 vehicles in the process. This is the fourth day of traffic that has gone into or close to the 550,000 mark.

On Monday, 546,553 vehicles were inspected, while 545,182 vehicles were checked at roadblocks on Tuesday. On Wednesday, that number had increased to 558,548 vehicles. Yesterday, Ismail Sabir had said that one of the reasons for the increase in traffic was due to many companies not involved in essential services having taken the opportunity to resume business (from Monday). As a result, more people were heading out to work and adding to the traffic woes.

He added that 1,057 individuals were arrested yesterday (April 16) for MCO-related offences. Of the total, 906 individuals were remanded, while 151 were allowed to post bail. A total of 622 people were charged in court yesterday, and the cumulative number of arrests for MCO violations now stood at 12,074.

Ismail Sabri also repeated that it is not an offence if a person does not wear a face mask in public during the MCO. He said the health ministry had already issued guidelines, stating that only those who were Covid-19 symptomatic (or was not feeling well) should wear face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We can’t enforce the law against anyone who is not wearing a face mask and detain or arrest them. There has been a previous case where a shopper was prevented from purchasing goods because that individual did not wear a face mask. This goes beyond the law. To us, it’s not an offence if you do not wear a face mask,” he said in response to a question about a report about an individual who was not wearing a face mask having been arrested by police in Selangor two days ago.

While the number of new Covid-19 infections have been dropping in recent days, we’re not quite out of the woods yet – the advice remains, stay at home unless it’s for food and essentials, and if you do need to head out, stay within a 10 km radius (above that only for those seeking medical treatment or buying medicine) and remember to follow the one-person-per-car rule.

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