Malaysia extends national lockdown by 2 weeks to curb virus

Malaysia extends national lockdown by 2 weeks to curb virus

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced Wednesday a two-week extension of a national lockdown as part of stepped-up measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The "movement control order", which requires people to stay home and was originally set to expire on March 31, will now continue until April 14.

"Just be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time," the premier said in a televised address. "I know you feel burdened but I don't have a choice. I have to extend the movement control order for your own safety."

Since the order went into effect on March 18, the national tally of infections has more than doubled from 790 to 1,796, the highest among Southeast Asian countries. The death toll from the virus, which was zero just 10 days ago, now stands at 19, according to the health authorities.

Exempted from the order are those working in essential services such as healthcare, transportation, banking, law enforcement and the food industry.

Overseas travel is banned. Offices and shopping malls are shut. Streets are quiet as the military has been deployed to assist the police in enforcing the lockdown.

With the Malaysian economy hit hard by the outbreak, Muhyiddin said Wednesday the government will announce another stimulus package on Friday to help ease the financial burden.

That comes on top of the 20 billion ringgit (about $4.75 billion) financial assistance the government announced on Feb 27 in a bid to boost the economy.

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, a local think tank, is predicting a recession ahead, forecasting the economy to contract by 2.9% this year with the number of job losses estimated at 2.4 million.

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