With the accelerated spread of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world continue to experience fear and panic which are manifested in diverse behavioural changes. Digital media, conventional media and interpersonal communication as mediums of information on COVID-19 might play a role in spreading panic among the population. The paper aims to determine the extent of panic caused by information about COVID-19 obtained from media and interpersonal communication among Malaysians. The paper also traces the dependency of people on online media while confined to their homes during the Movement Control Order (MCO). The study employed a quantitative approach. An online survey using Google doc was used to collect data from 253 respondents across Malaysia. The data collected comprised of closed-ended, interval and open-ended questions. The findings reveal that most of the respondents’ source of panic was exposure to reports from online media (Internet and social media). The themes that emerged for online activities during MCO include buying and selling online, reading and searching for information online, teaching and learning online, working from home, spending time with family, house and compound cleaning, and gardening. Essentially, it is ironic that the online media which contributes to the general public panic is also a vital source of information on COVID-19 and a means of carrying on life routines in a lockdown.
Keywords: Media dependency, interpersonal communication channels, COVID-19, Movement Control Order, panic