Southeast Asia restricts people's movements to contain COVID-19

In light of the global spread of COVID-19, Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, have imposed stern restrictions on people's movements.

Indonesia: A one-month visa suspension

Indonesia will suspend its visa exemption policy for all countries for a month, starting Friday (March 20), as part of its attempts to stem the spread of COVID-19, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said at a press conference on Tuesday. The temporary visa suspension includes exemption for short-stay visits, visa-on-arrival and diplomatic visa-free facilities.

It will also ban the entry and transit of foreign nationals who have visited some of the world's hardest-hit countries in the last 14 days, with Iran, Italy, Vatican City, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK included on the list. Earlier restrictions on travelers from China and South Korea's Daegu city and North Gyeongsang Province will continue, she added.

An official sprays disinfectant to prevent the novel coronavirus at a beach in Bali, Indonesia, March 15, 2020. /AP

An official sprays disinfectant to prevent the novel coronavirus at a beach in Bali, Indonesia, March 15, 2020. /AP

According to the Foreign Ministry, all foreigners or travelers who wish to visit Indonesia must "obtain a visa from Indonesian missions in accordance with the purpose of their visit," and when submitting the application, applicants must "provide a health certificate issued by a relevant health authority" from their respective countries.

Indonesia has so far reported a total of 172 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Malaysia: A two-week lockdown

Malaysia went into a two-week partial lockdown on Wednesday, banning its citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country spiked to 673 – the highest in Southeast Asia.


Its decision to ban the citizens from leaving the country could hit the neighboring country Singapore hard, which normally receives some 300,000 Malaysians who commute each day to work there.

Singapore's own restrictions on foreign arrivals exempted Malaysians who cross by land. Singapore's government is now scrambling to help employers find accommodation for Malaysian workers so they're able to remain there till the end of March, when Malaysia's restrictions are due to be lifted.

Read more: Asia sees tightened travel restrictions to combat COVID-19 outbreak