Malaysia Closes Borders Amid Spike in Coronavirus Cases

Cheryl Sanders
March 17, 2020

Malaysia will ban its citizens from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country in drastic measures announced by the prime minister Monday aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

Malaysians who intend to take trip within the country and visit tourist spots are advised to cancel such vacation plans during the two-week shutdown starting tomorrow until March 31, the National Security Council (NSC) said today.

Malaysia reported 125 new infections on Monday - its second biggest daily jump and a lot of them linked to the congregation of Islamic missionaries at a mosque in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, between February 28 and March 1. Also prohibited are all mass gatherings including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.

To this end, all houses of worship and businesses must be closed. "Drastic measures must be taken immediately to stop the spread of this virus by limiting mass movements", he said.

"Malaysians who are returning to the country during this period will be subject to health screenings and self-quarantine of 14 days", the prime minister said.

"The Government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC Fairprice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase our stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months".

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. "This is the only way we can prevent more people from being infected by the outbreaks that can destroy lives".

"Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient", he said. This includes water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, finances, banking, health, pharmacies, fire department, jails, ports, airports, security, defense, cleanliness, retail and food supply.

All education centres will also be closed, including pre-schools, government and private schools, fully-residential schools, global schools, tahfiz centres, as well as private and public institutions of higher learning and skills training institutes.

The prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, addressing the nation tonight.

Almost two-thirds of Malaysia's 553 coronavirus cases have been linked to an Islamic gathering, making Malaysia Southeast Asia's worst-affected country and prompting a warning from the prime minister of "big news" on Monday to contain the epidemic. The domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry has been ordered to constantly monitor the situation throughout the lockdown period.

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