by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA
MALAYSIA has imposed movement restrictions, banning the entry of foreigners, closing and shuttering non-essential services from tomorrow until the end of the month, as Putrajaya seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The measures, the strongest actions imposed in the country since the May 13, 1969, racial riot, mean the movement of the people will be limited. Business and shops have been instructed to shutter except establishments that sell food and essentials.
Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) said the 14-day movement restriction order is made under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and Police Act 1967.
“We cannot wait any longer until it gets critical. Drastic actions must be taken immediately to curb the spreading by limiting the movement of the people. This is the only way for us to prevent more people in this country from getting infected,” he said in an 11-minute televised address last night.
Foreigners are also banned from entering Malaysia, while locals are prohibited from leaving the country.
The government has also banned mass assemblies and ordered the closure of all kindergartens, as well as public and private schools including daily schools, boarding schools, international schools, tahfiz centres and other pre-university institutions.
All public and private higher learning institutions are also to close, besides government and private premises.
Muhyiddin said religious, sports, social and cultural activities including all houses of worship and business premises must be closed except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores and department stores selling everyday necessities.
For Muslims in the country, all religious activities at mosques and surau including Friday prayers have also been banned. The ban also covers other religions’ activities.
Muhyiddin said Malaysians who have just returned from overseas are required to undergo health checks and undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.
But essential services will remain open. Sectors like water, electricity, power, telecommunications, postal, transportation, irrigation, oil, gas, fuel, lubricants, broadcasting, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, fire, prison, port, airport, security, defence, cleaning, retail and food supply are exempted from the movement restrictions.
The announcement came after Malaysia recorded 125 new cases yesterday, which brings the total to 553, the worst-hit country in SouthEast Asia.
Malaysia has seen three clusters of infection — those linked to patients 26 and 33, and the latest related to a 16,000-strong “tabligh” gathering at a mosque in Sri Petaling.
Fear gripped the nation following rumours of a lockdown, triggering a shopping frenzy and panic buying yesterday.
The virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December last year, has now infected more than 174,000 people, including over 6,600 deaths and 77,800 recoveries.
Meanwhile, the government has announced new allocations under the economic stimulus package, including financial aids for employees who are forced to take unpaid leave.
The PM said the financial aid includes a RM120 million allocation to benefit 33,000 workers.
“RM600 financial aid for each employee every month for a maximum period of six months.
“Eligible for workers who were given unpaid leave notice from March 2, 2020, and who contribute to the Employment Insurance Scheme and whose salary does not exceed RM4,000 per month,” he told media after the Economic Action Council (EAC) meeting in Putrajaya yesterday afternoon.
Muhyiddin said the government is also allocating RM500 million for a 2% discount on electricity bills for commercial, industrial and agricultural industries, as well as for domestic users, from April 1 to Sept 30, 2020.
The electricity bills discount is estimated to benefit more than 10 million households, commercial users, industrial and agricultural sectors.
Muhyiddin said the government has also started disbursing the RM200 payment for Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) beneficiaries yesterday.
He added that an additional RM100 payment for BSH beneficiaries will be disbursed in May, involving RM500 million to benefit five million BSH beneficiaries.
He also said small projects worth RM2 billion, which was previously announced in the economic stimulus package, will begin in April.
Commenting on the 3.4% fiscal deficit target for the country’s GDP, Muhyiddin said there are some issues that need to be addressed.
“We are fully aware of the issues, steps and measures will be taken to address it,” he said.
“We would like to tell the businesses and investors that we will do something about this urgent situation.
“That is why the EAC was established to address those matters that are important to make our economy sustainable,” Muhyiddin added.