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Malaysia bars overseas travel, entry of foreigners to curb COVID-19 spread

07:37 | 17/03/2020

Malaysia will bar citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country for about two weeks starting Wednesday (Mar 18), said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address on Monday.

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a press conference on Mar 9, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

The rules are part of a "restricted movement order" established by the Malaysian government to prevent further spread of the COVID-19, said Muhyiddin.

From Mar 18 to Mar 31, all Malaysians are prohibited from leaving the country. Those who return from overseas will have to go through health checks and go on a 14-day self-quarantine.

Foreign visitors, including tourists, will also not be allowed to enter Malaysia during this period, he added.

Malaysia, the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia so far, reported 125 new infections on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 553.

More than 300 cases were linked to a gathering held at a mosque between Feb 28 and Mar 1 in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.

The event, attended by 16,000 people, has also led to infections in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.

Public gatherings and movements in the whole country, including religious events, sports meets, social and cultural activities will be prohibited, he said.

"To enforce this, all places of worship and business premises must be closed, except for supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities," said Mr Muhyiddin.

All schools and higher learning institutions will also be closed, he added.

Muhyiddin also announced that all firms will be closed except for those involved in essential services such as water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, transport, oil, petrol, safety and defence.

"Drastic action has to be taken so that we can curb the spread of this virus by limiting people's movements. This is one of the ways that we can stop more Malaysians from being infected by this fatal disease," said Muhyiddin.

He also called for Malaysians to refrain from panicking, assuring that food and health necessities such as protective masks are in sufficient supply.

"I have directed the trade ministry to monitor the situation with food and daily necessities throughout the restricted movement order period," he said.

"I beg all of you to please abide by the restricted movement order. This is our responsibility and we must carry out this responsibility as concerned citizens who care for our families, our community and our country," he added.

Muhyiddin said that Malaysia's National Security Council will meet daily to monitor and control the COVID-19 situation.

"I will chair the meetings and will provide updates on the developments from time to time," he added.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said on Monday that all religious activities and Friday prayers at mosques and surau nationwide will be suspended for 10 days from Mar 17 to Mar 26./.

VNF/CNA/Reuters