KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian government's decision to impose the Movement Control Order to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases have brought massive changes to the working landscape of the country, and more foreign embassies are taking necessary precaution while advising their people to take utmost care due to the prevailing situation.
Social media come in handy in this unpredictable time and unprecedented challenges in modern history as embassies make sure that the welfare of their citizens is well-taken care of in such situations.
Working from homes, limiting the staff at embassies and shortening the working hours are among the operational arrangements made.
The Movement Control Order is being implemented under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967 from March 18 to 31, 2020, as part of Malaysia's efforts to contain the disease.
In order to observe the movement control order in Malaysia, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Malaysia remains operational but on a smaller scale, with remote working arrangements for some of the staff, said its Ambassador Milan Hupcej.
“Also, due to the State of Emergency in the Czech Republic because of the COVID-19 outbreak, our Embassy had to stop accepting all short term and long term visa applications until further notice.
“Our priority now is the consular assistance and support to the Czech nationals in Malaysia,” he said in a statement.
Regarding the current situation, he said the embassy has registered a few hundred Czech nationals in Malaysia, most of them needing help to re-book flights home, and some needing additional assistance such as accommodation.
The Embassy of Japan in Malaysia has made temporary changes to its operating hours for its consular services which will be implemented from today (March 19) until March 31.
The embassy, via its website, said the operating hours for consular services for passport, certificate, family registration, overseas voting, visa application and others will be changed to 10am-12pm as opposed to 8.30am-12pm previously.
However, the 2pm-4pm operating hours for consular services remain unchanged.
“The total working days required for issuance of passport and certificate is changed to five working days compared with four working days before.
“For the issuance of visa, it will be three working days for Malaysians and four working days for non-Malaysians, compared with two working days for Malaysians and three for non-Malaysians previously.
From today till March 31, the embassy will only accept visa applications from Malaysians and non- Malaysian with Certificate of Eligibility (COE), Diplomatic and Official Visa, and those who need special consideration for humanitarian purposes.
“All visa applications for short term visit within 90 days (such as tourism, business meeting, visiting family and relatives) will be suspended,” the embassy said.
The operating hours for Inquiry through the phone for consular services remain unchanged, which is 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
The statement said the changes made might be extended depending on the Malaysian government’s decision on the period of Movement Control Order.
Meanwhile, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland told Bernama that its operating hours remain the same – albeit with limited staff.
The embassy said that Polish citizens are returning to Europe mainly via Thailand and Singapore.
"Polish Government in cooperation with Polish National Carrier LOT have been organising charter flights to the region to transport Polish citizens back to Poland. We are constantly updating our website and social media on the continuously changing situation in Malaysia and the region," the embassy said in a reply to Bernama.
Deputy Chief of Mission of the High Commission of Pakistan to Malaysia Atif Sharif Mian told Bernama that there are no cases of stranded Pakistanis in Malaysia at the moment.
"Our advice (to Pakistani community) is to maintain social distancing and do not travel if not required," he said, adding that special operational arrangements such as shortened working hours and stringent sanitisation routine at the High Commission here are being done due to the ongoing situation.
Atif also said that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) would continue to operate every Friday on KL-Islamabad route to facilitate travel between the two countries.
Somalia's Ambassador to Malaysia Abukar Abdi Osman said the embassy is closed from March 18 to March 31 following the Prime Minister's announcement and the instructions and direction from the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.
"But we shall operate from home in order to assist any Somali Student or National who needs assistance from the Embassy. We (currently) have almost 3,000 Somali students in different universities and colleges in Malaysia, as well as in intermediate schools with families taking care of their children,” said Abukar.
Ambassador of Spain to Malaysia, José Miguel Corvinos Lafuente, said the embassy has established minimum services, with two shifts, on a rotating basis.
“We have received lots of calls from Spanish citizens asking for advice and support on flight connections, accommodation, etc. We assist them on a case by case basis,” the ambassador told Bernama.
According to a spokesman from the United States embassy in Kuala Lumpur, it has cancelled all immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments from March 17 onward.
“We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, but are unable to provide a specific date at this time,” said the spokesman in a statement.
The statement said the embassy remains open to provide services on an emergency basis – specifically to Americans in need – and more information can be obtained at https://ustraveldocs.com/my/ and https://my.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/.
American citizens in Malaysia are advised to visit https://step.state.gov where they can register with the Embassy for the latest updates on the rapidly evolving situation concerning COVID-19.
Charge d'affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Malaysia, Morella Barreto Lopez, said that the embassy staff are working from home in solidarity with Malaysia and supporting its citizens in this global fight.
"We must all provide solidarity in the face of a threat that has no borders," she told Bernama.
She said the embassy is closely following the developments in Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei and "we can report that the measures taken in Venezuela are paying off because there have been no new infections in the last 48 hours, we follow the Chinese example of social isolation,".
The Venezuelan community can contact the embassy through emails embavenezKl@gmail.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAGS: Malaysia, embassies, COVID-19, Movement Control Order, citizens, consular services, visas