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Jakarta Post

Indonesians in Malaysia remain calm as they prepare for lockdown

  • Apriza Pinandita
    Apriza Pinandita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 17, 2020   /   02:40 pm
Indonesians in Malaysia remain calm as they prepare for lockdown A man wears a facemask, amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Saloma Link Bridge in Kuala Lumpur on March 12, 2020. (AFP/Mohd RASFAN )

Simandjuntak Yosep Parulian, 46, an IT consultant based in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the many Indonesians who will be affected by the Malaysian government’s new policy to restrict the movement of people in order to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The Malaysian government announced on Monday that it would enforce a partial lockdown, which will be come into effect on Wednesday, after the country experienced a recent surge in confirmed cases.

Malaysia reported 125 new cases on Monday, taking its total to 553, the highest number in Southeast Asia. Nearly two-thirds of the new cases are linked to an Islamic gathering attended by 16,000 people, including 1,500 from other countries, Reuters reported. Three Indonesians were also infected at the event. 

Yosep said the situation in the city remained normal ahead of the lockdown, although people were still rushing to supermarkets to stock up on supplies.

“It’s fine [here]. But we are just starting to work from home and our kids are starting to take their classes online,” Yosep told The Jakarta Post via instant messaging on Tuesday.

“It’s different from the lockdown implemented in Wuhan. People in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, will still be able to travel to other cities in the country,” he said. “Behind my apartment, there is a construction site and the builders are still working as usual,” he added.

“It [the partial lockdown] has not caused panic.”

In a televised speech on Monday evening, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the measures, which will remain in place from Wednesday until Mar. 31.

Schools and universities will be shut, as will government and private business offices, except those that provide essential services, Muhyiddin said. Foreigners will not be allowed into the country and citizens will not be allowed to leave.

“These actions must be taken by the government to stem the spread of the pandemic that may take the lives of our country’s people,” Muhyiddin said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Office of the Prime Minister explained that supermarkets and minimarts would remain open.

However, mass events such as public weddings and small-scale funerals will not be allowed as well as religious activities including Friday prayers. “All religious activities are totally banned,” the statement read.

According to the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesian citizens are still allowed to leave the country.

However, people like Yosep are reluctant to leave Malaysia as they will not be allowed to reenter as foreigners.

Agung Cahaya Sumirat, the head of the information, social and culture department at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said on Tuesday that Indonesians in the country were prepared for the situation. “We have been communicating with a number of Indonesians here. They remain calm,” he said.

However, the embassy has yet to announce any measures it will take to ensure Indonesian citizens receive adequate supplies during the lockdown.

Currently, around 700,000 registered Indonesians live in Malaysia, but Agung said the number could be higher.

“We cannot depend on the embassy. We should be proactive, too,” said Yosep, who said he had taken several steps to prepare ahead of the lockdown.

Taking advantage of the supermarkets that remain open, Yosep has begun to stock up on supplies such as a two week supply of canned and dried foods that are enough for two weeks.

However, he said it was still difficult to find face masks and hand sanitizer.

“Other than that, it is just the same as usual."