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M'sia extends movement curbs, prepares economic stimulus

Measures come as M'sia reports 172 new cases, taking the total to 1,796, the highest in S-E Asia

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA will extend a two-week restriction of movement order and unveil a second economic stimulus package as the number of novel coronavirus cases continue to climb, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday.

The measures come as Malaysia reported 172 new novel coronavirus cases, taking the total to 1,796, the highest in South-east Asia.

Since last week, Malaysia has closed its borders to travellers, restricted internal movement, and ordered schools, universities and non-essential businesses to shut until March 31.

Mr Muhyiddin said the curbs on movement would be extended another two weeks to April 14 as Malaysia had yet to see a decline in the number of new virus cases.

"I know you feel burdened but I don't have a choice," Mr Muhyiddin told Malaysians in a televised address. "I have to extend the Movement Control Order for your own safety."

The government will also unveil a "more comprehensive, people-oriented" economic stimulus package on Friday, Mr Muhyiddin said.

The package is expected to be in addition to the RM20 billion (S$6.6 billion) stimulus announced last month to cushion the impact of the virus outbreak on tourism and other industries.

"Whether you are a taxi driver, a farmer, a restaurant owner... the government will ensure that you will all benefit," Mr Muhyiddin said, adding that food supply was "enough for everybody".

The government also plans to carry out mass testing for the novel coronavirus in high-risk areas, Mr Muhyiddin said.

Malaysia has recorded 17 virus deaths so far.

It has linked nearly two-thirds of its infections to a religious gathering last month near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, that the government says drew more than 16,000 people. The event is also linked to more than 100 cases across South-east Asia. REUTERS