Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Malaysia eases coronavirus-related eentry restrictions for certain travelers from 23 additional countries as of Sept. 13.

Alert Begins 12 Sep 2020 11:37 PM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions

Malaysia has relaxed an entry ban that it had earlier imposed on travelers arriving from nations having over 150,000 cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). As of Sept. 13, foreigners who hold work or permanent residency permits, including foreign spouses of Malaysian citizens, are allowed to enter Malaysia from 23 countries that fall within the 150,000-case category, provided they have obtained approval from Malaysian authorities and will be remaining in the country permanently. The 23 countries for which the ban has been eased are: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Nationwide movement restrictions known as recovery movement control orders (RMCO) remain in effect through Dec. 31 despite the continued easing of some policies. Most businesses can operate, though public places where social distancing controls are hard to enforce, like nightclubs, remain closed. Essential businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets, continue to operate. Sporting events can occur provided certain government mandates are observed. Interstate travel is permitted, though officials may ban travel for residents of localities that are under tighter COVID-related restrictions. Foreigners can participate in activities at mosques, though certain other religious facilities are open only to Malaysian citizens. Food outlets and convenience stores can operate until 0200 nightly. Public transport can operate at full capacity with certain protocols in place, such as requiring passengers to undergo temperature checks and wear facemasks. The use of facemasks also remains compulsory in crowded public places, such as markets; officials are also urging residents to wear facemasks in public to the extent possible. Authorities continue to discourage mass gatherings. Violations are punishable by fines of up to MYR 1,000 (USD 240).

Stricter measures known as enhanced movement control orders (EMCO) or targeted enhanced movement control orders (TEMCO) can be imposed on a local level in areas experiencing higher COVID-19 activity. Such restrictions may vary by locality. TEMCOs are currently in force in parts of Aman Jaya, Kedah State, until further notice. The restrictions include limiting operating hours of most businesses to 0800-2000 daily and allowing just one person from each household to obtain essential supplies. Additionally, EMCOs are in effect in Kota Setar District, Kedah State, through Sept. 26, with entry into and exit from the district being restricted.

Several state governments are maintaining additional statewide restrictions on top of those mandated by the central authorities. Officials in several states, including Johor, Perak, and Selangor, are reopening markets in stages. Some states may also require other businesses, such as hair salons and night markets, to remain closed. Additional curbs include limiting business operation hours, though exemptions are likely for essential services. Central or state authorities may implement or reintroduce restrictions in the coming weeks if COVID-19 cases increase.

Travel Restrictions
Most foreigners remain banned from entering Malaysia; exemptions are in place for resident diplomats, foreign spouses and dependents of Malaysian citizens, long-term pass holders, and expatriate employees working in essential industries and their dependents, among others. Arriving expatriate employees must present a letter of approval from authorities. Travelers must test for COVID-19 upon arrival. Those who test positive will undergo treatment at medical facilities, while those who test negative will quarantine for 14 days at designated locations, with limited exemptions. Travelers must also download the MySejahtera contact tracing application. Foreigners may transit at Malaysian airports as long as they do not pass through the immigration points. Malaysian nationals remain banned from traveling abroad. Emergency repatriation of citizens stranded abroad may occur on a case-by-case basis.

Limited crossborder travel with Singapore for business and official purposes restarted Aug. 17. Under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) scheme, people can travel short-term from Singapore to Malaysia with an exemption from normal quarantine requirements for arrival. The travelers must present letters of approval from immigration authorities and a company or government agency in Malaysia, obtain visas if required, and test for COVID-19 within 72 hours before travel, as well as upon arrival. Such travelers must adhere to a pre-approved itinerary for the first 14 days and comply with contact tracing measures. Additionally, in the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) scheme for long-term work visa holders, only people traveling to Johor State can quarantine at their residence or accommodations for seven days upon arrival, while those who are going to other Malaysian states must isolate at government-designated facilities for a week. Travelers can leave the quarantine sites upon testing negative for COVID-19. The PCA program allows the travelers to undertake multiple-entry visits through land border crossings at Woodlands or Tuas for 90-day stays once their applications are approved. Travelers are eligible for a home leave of two to four weeks after every minimum stay of 90 days in the country where they work.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official health and safety measures. Ensure contingency plans account for additional disruptive controls or further extensions of current restrictions. Postpone travel if affected by travel restrictions. Confirm flight status before checking out of accommodation and departing for the airport. Follow all official instructions, particularly if traveling from affected locations. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings at all ports of entry. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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