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Malaysia in lockdown after cases surge to most in Southeast Asia

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is restricting people's movement nationwide to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia is restricting people's movement nationwide to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The country bans all visitors, and residents are barred from traveling overseas while places of worship, schools and business premises will be shut except for markets that supply daily needs, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address late Monday. The measures are effective March 18 to 31, he said.

Malaysians returning from overseas will be required to undergo 14-day self-quarantine.

The country has the largest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia, with 125 new cases reported on Monday to push the overall tally to 553. Many of the new infections are linked to a religious gathering attended by about 16,000 people at Sri Petaling mosque near Kuala Lumpur, Health Minister Adham Baba said at a separate briefing.

Neighbouring countries have reported cases linked to the event, with Singapore extending its closure of mosques until March 26 on concern over the virus.

Mr Muhyiddin has called off gatherings including sports events and international conferences through April, potentially disrupting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings set to be hosted in the country this year.

Malaysia's handling of the outbreak has been complicated by a power struggle that saw an abrupt change of government in late February after the shock resignation of former leader Mahathir Mohamad, who has warned that the current pandemic is set to hit global economies harder than even the 1997 financial crisis.