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Malaysia lockdown: Some Singaporeans seek to return home quickly, even though they can leave the country anytime

SINGAPORE — Malaysia-based Singaporean Nurul Ain said the “hair on her arms stood” when she received news that Malaysia would close its borders from Wednesday (March 18) in an effort to arrest the spread of Covid-19.

Malaysia lockdown: Some Singaporeans seek to return home quickly, even though they can leave the country anytime

When contacted, a spokesperson for the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore said Singaporeans can return to the city-state “anytime”. But Singaporeans interviewed by TODAY were not taking chances and are scrambling to return home before the lockdown kicks in.

SINGAPORE — Malaysia-based Singaporean Nurul Ain said the “hair on her arms stood” when she received news that Malaysia would close its borders from Wednesday (March 18) in an effort to arrest the spread of Covid-19.

“My phone started buzzing non-stop, as I started to receive messages from concerned family and friends in Singapore,” the 29-year-old master’s student told TODAY on the phone from Petaling Jaya near the capital Kuala Lumpur.

She is enrolled in the Master of Malay Studies course at the University of Malaya.

On Monday night, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a nationwide lockdown from March 18 to 31 to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, which has recorded more than 600 cases and two deaths as of Tuesday.

All Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad, and tourists and visitors will not be allowed entry.

When contacted, a spokesperson for the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore confirmed that Singaporeans can return to the city-state “anytime”.

But Singaporeans interviewed by TODAY were not taking chances and were scrambling to return home before the lockdown kicks in.

Ms Nurul Ain and her parents, who were visiting her in Malaysia, set off for Singapore by car at 11am on Tuesday, but soon found themselves in crawling traffic.

The roads in Johor Baru were “full of cars”, said Ms Nurul Ain, adding that it took two hours to travel about 100 metres.

“As soon as the lockdown was announced, my mother called me from her hotel room. She was crying and said she would bring me back home,” she recalled.

Ms Nurul said her parents were concerned as she suffers from asthma.

“I am immunocompromised. My immunity is lower than the average man-in-the-street. My parents were afraid that if anything were to happen to me in the next two weeks, they would not be able to enter Malaysia,” she said.

Mrs Ain Rahim, a Singaporean flight attendant, arrived in Kuala Lumpur with her parents and daughter on Sunday to visit her family who lives there.

The 41-year-old decided against flying back to Singapore immediately after receiving news of the lockdown on Monday night, as she had already hired a Malaysian driver to take them back on Tuesday.

The family began their journey home at 10.30am. While she hoped they would arrive in Singapore before midnight on Wednesday, she said: “We are concerned about whether the driver can exit Malaysia on time, too.”

Ms Kamala Dewi, 50, a lawyer who lives in Nusajaya, Johor, with her three daughters, also decided to return to Singapore on Tuesday as she trusted the city-state’s healthcare system.

She runs a law firm in Singapore, and commutes to and from Malaysia.

“We do not know how bad the spread is… in Malaysia, and I find that Singapore has been controlling the spread quite well,” said Ms Dewi, who returned on Tuesday morning. Her daughters reached Singapore at 4pm.

STAYING PUT IN MALAYSIA

Other Singaporeans, however, are staying put in Malaysia.

Ms Nyla Rashid, who works in a Malaysian marketing firm, intended to return to Singapore on Tuesday to visit her family, but found her plans scuppered because of the impending lockdown.

The 55-year-old, who resides in Selangor state, plans to remain in Malaysia to avoid any hassle.

“The whole lockdown situation, it has become troublesome for me to visit my family.”

Even so, Ms Nyla acknowledged that the travel restrictions were a step in the right direction amid the recent spike in confirmed cases in Malaysia.

“In my area, all the essential items at the supermarkets have been wiped out. Immediately after the lockdown was announced, people began stocking up.

“You can tell there is a general mood of worry and anxiety,” she said.

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