As the wait for an announcement on whether the movement control order (MCO) will be extended beyond phase three or lifted next week continues, the government says it is exploring the possibility of allowing those who went back to their hometowns before the MCO was enforced to return to Kuala Lumpur and other major cities.

According to senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, those who have been back home for more than a month now say that they have been back home too long, and would like to return. However, this may not be as simple as it seems, he said in his daily non-health press briefing earlier today.

“We understand the unrest that they feel, and their wanting to return to their homes where they work, as well as their anxieties. For example, some may have gone back alone, leaving their family in KL, so they have been separated from their family for more than a month. The government understands their desire to want to come back, more so when I previously announced the relaxation of movement for IPTA (public university) and IPTS (private university) students for them to be allowed to go back home,” he said.

However, he said that there is a difference in the case of those who returned home prior to the MCO compared to the students. “We know the total number of students, so it is easier for us to plan their return home. We also know the status of their health, because they have been housed in their campuses, and they have been continously monitored, whereas those who went back to their hometowns are scattered in many places, and we are not aware of their total number,” he explained.

Ismail Sabri said that the government needed to know what the total is so it can form a plan, and as such is requesting that those wanting to return to towns and cities to first submit an application to the police so the number can be established.

“They need to provide their details, indicate the number of people who want to return to the city and where they are coming back from, so we can analyse the info to see if they are in a red or green zone,” he said. The application can be made online via the ‘Gerak Malaysia’ application, which is jointly developed by the police and the communications and multimedia ministry, from April 25.

He added that those without a phone that can facilitate online applications can provide their details at the police station nearest to their location. “To avoid congestion, they will have to make an appointment by phone before heading to the station to furnish details,” he said.

Ismail Sabri highlighted that there was no certainty that this allowance for interstate travel would happen. “The matter is still under study, and even if allowed, I believe it will likely be after May 1. There is no guarantee of this, because we need to wait for reports from police stations after April 25 to find out how many people there are,” he said.

“Only then can we come up with a tight standard operating procedure (for out of town travel). Whatever the case we will study the matter first, the good and the bad, and we will seek advice from the health ministry before coming to a decision,” he explained.

At the briefing, he also revealed the daily statistics for MCO enforcement, and said that yesterday (April 21), the police arrested 865 individuals for MCO violations. Of this number, 732 were remanded, while 133 were allowed to post bail.

He added that 1,236 people were charged in court yesterday, and total cumulative arrests for MCO offences since March 18 now stood at 17,735. Yesterday, the police carried out 835 roadblocks across the country and inspected 609,411 vehicles.

While the number of new infection cases remains positively in the double digits, the fight against Covid-19 is far from over. As always, 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.