NSC Orders University Students To Return Home, Risking Covid-19 Spread

By Boo Su-Lyn | 17 March 2020

Doctors say this will risk spreading the novel coronavirus, currently clustered in Selangor and KL, to older people in rural towns and villages who have a higher risk of dying.

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The National Security Council (NSC) has instructed all private and public university students to return to their hometowns during the national movement restriction period, a move that experts say could inadvertently spread Covid-19 to rural areas.

The instruction was listed in the NSC’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the Movement Control Order (MCO) — which will be enforced from tomorrow until the end of the month — that also ordered foreign students who choose to remain in Malaysia and reside in university residences to report to university management.

Photographs of crowded bus stations and people queuing to buy bus tickets have been spread on WhatsApp.

Senior paediatrician Dr Amar-Singh HSS told CodeBlue that the NSC’s order would cause the novel coronavirus to spread in three ways, even as most Covid-19 cases now are predominantly located in Selangor and the Federal Territories.

“The mass of people queuing for tickets is a high risk non-social distancing behaviour, travel in the buses will be another time to get infected, and going home to rural towns and villages will infect older persons at higher risk of dying,” said Dr Amar.

“Will negate all the government initiative is trying to do.”

Paediatrician Dr Musa Mohd Nordin also criticised NSC’s instruction for students to return to their hometowns.

“Hello NSC! It is a restrict-movement order, ie: to mitigate the spread of the virus — endgame being to flatten the epidemic curve,” Dr Musa told CodeBlue.

“Stay put wherever you are. No balik kampung okay! The idea being to minimise social interactions which would facilitate the transmissibility of the virus. The posh name being social distancing.”

Covid-19 cases have surged in Malaysia in the past few days, reaching 553 as of noon yesterday, the highest in Southeast Asia. Most of the cases in Malaysia are located in Selangor (144), followed by Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (106), with the other cases numbering in the dozens in other states.

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