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VIRUS OUTBREAK

Malaysia to curb movement for 2 weeks from Wednesday to contain virus

Schools and shops to shut; only essential-service agencies will operate. In Singapore, government has worked to ensure supply of essential goods

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Tourists outside a Kuala Lumpur mosque. With the curbs in place, entry of visitors will be restricted. Malaysians returning from abroad will be checked and have to be self-quarantined for 14 days.

Singapore

MALAYSIA is restricting movement nationwide for two weeks from March 18 to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

Entry restrictions will be in place, and all shops will close, with the exception of those selling food and daily essentials. Schools, private businesses and government departments will also close, except for those providing essential services.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the move on Monday night in a live broadcast.

"Drastic action should be taken immediately to prevent the spread of the disease by limiting the movement of the public," he said in Malay, noting that there has been a spike in the virus outbreak with tens of thousands of people affected in other countries.

The nationwide Movement Control Order will apply till March 31, banning mass movements and gatherings, including religious, sporting, social, and cultural activities. This includes the suspension of all religious activities in mosques.

To this end, all houses of worship and businesses must be closed. The exceptions are markets, supermarkets, grocery and convenience stores.

Malaysians will be barred from going abroad. All Malaysians who have returned from overseas will have to undergo a health check and self-quarantine for 14 days. The entry of all tourists and visitors will be restricted.

In a Facebook post, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing addressed possible concerns that Singaporean consumers and businesses might have about Malaysia's move.

The government has been working with essential firms to increase Singapore's stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months, so that the island is not in danger of running out, he said.

Singapore has local production capabilities for food items such as noodles, infant milk powder and canned goods, and has diversified its sources of essential goods, including importing vegetables from China and eggs from as far as Ukraine.

"Although we are not facing any shortages, I urge everyone to continue to purchase in a responsible manner and to purchase only what you need," said Mr Chan.

"Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient."

As for businesses that employ Malaysian workers who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily, they may have to activate their Business Continuity Plans, he said.

"If they need assistance, they should contact our economic agencies who stand ready to assist.

"We will continue to stay in touch with our Malaysian counterparts as the situation evolves. Our priority is to ensure that our people and our businesses are able to continue with their lives and their livelihoods."

Also closed in Malaysia, for the duration of the Movement Control Order, are all schools, from kindergartens and primary schools through till public and private higher-education institutions and skills-training institutes.

All government and private business premises will close, except for those involved in essential services.

The essential services mentioned include water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, postal, transport, oil and gas, broadcasting, finance, security, health, cleaning, port, airport, and food supply.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin noted that some countries have taken drastic steps to control the outbreak, including China, where there has been a decline in the number of new infections.

He assured Malaysians that the supply of groceries, daily essentials, and healthcare supplies, including masks, was sufficient.

The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has been directed to monitor food supplies daily during the two weeks of the curbs, he added.

A special meeting of Malaysia's National Security Council, chaired by Mr Muhyiddin, will meet daily to monitor the situation.

Malaysia reported 125 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the country's total to 553. Of the new cases, 95 were related to the mass mosque event in Kuala Lumpur.