14% of COVID-19 cases linked to interstate travel: Health DG

Bumper-to-bumper traffic in Malaysia.  Photo: Ministry of Health Malaysia
Bumper-to-bumper traffic in Malaysia. Photo: Ministry of Health Malaysia

About 14% of Malaysia’s COVID-19 cases have been attributed to interstate travel, the country’s health chief revealed yesterday after hundreds attempted to return to their hometowns ahead of Hari Raya celebrations.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah’s Sunday statement came after authorities revealed on Friday that 508 vehicles were stopped at interstate borders and ordered to turn back. The figure doubled the very next day when 1,248 vehicles were stopped. Eid celebrations begin Sunday. 

“About 18 clusters from a total of 48 recorded in the country are linked to interstate travel activities. Ten of these clusters are still active,” he said during a press briefing yesterday.

“We look at the experience of other countries, such as Iran. Many citizens returned to their hometowns during a festival, which caused a spike in COVID-19 infections,” he added.

He also encouraged Malaysians to practice hygiene and social distancing, especially with the upcoming festivities.

Malaysia, which has been under lockdown since March 18, has reported 6,894 COVID-19 cases so far. Currently, Malaysians are not allowed to travel across states without a police permit, which is mainly issued to those traveling for work purposes. 

Meanwhile, those who managed to sneak back to their hometowns illegally could still get caught, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned on Saturday.  

During a separate press conference, he said that there is no guarantee that interstate travelers won’t get caught as the authorities plan to tighten enforcement efforts, including imposing fines. 

“Sacrifice returning to your hometowns for the greater good,” he said. 

At the moment, 146 roadblocks have been set up throughout Malaysia to monitor interstate travels. 

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