World

Malaysia extends lockdown, to unveil second stimulus package

Curbs on movement to remain till April 14 as country reports 172 new cases

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will extend a two-week restriction of movement order and unveil a second economic stimulus package as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday.

The measures come as Malaysia reported 172 new cases, taking its 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 said 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 tomorrow, 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 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 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 Kuala Lumpur, that the government has said drew more than 16,000 people. The event is linked to more than 100 cases across South-east Asia.

Indonesia yesterday confirmed 105 new cases, bringing its total to 790, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said. This is the second day infections have crossed the 100 mark.

Three more people had died, taking the total number of deaths to 58, he said, adding 31 people had recovered from the virus.

SURGE

Health experts have said Indonesia faces a surge in infections after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak in the world's fourth most populous country.

The data released so far is seen as understating the scale of infections because of a low rate of testing, expert said.

A study by the London-based Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases released on Monday estimates that as few as 2 per cent of Indonesia's cases have been reported.

That would bring the true number to as many as 34,300, which is more than Iran's number of cases.

"We have lost control, it has already spread everywhere," Dr Ascobat Gani, a public health economist told Reuters.

"Maybe we will follow Wuhan or Italy. I think we are in the range of that."

The government has said the impact of the virus will not be that severe.

"We won't be like that," said Mr Yurianto, a senior health ministry official, referring to comparisons with outbreaks in Italy and China.

"What's important is that we rally the people ... they have to keep their distance."- REUTERS

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