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Mahathir Mohamad attending a June 2015 conference in Kuala Lumpur in support of the Rohungya, a mostly-Muslim minority from Myanmar (Simon Roughneen)
Mahathir Mohamad attending a June 2015 conference in Kuala Lumpur in support of the Rohungya, a mostly-Muslim minority from Myanmar (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, the 94-year-old who was the world’s oldest prime minister before resigning last month, has placed himself in two weeks of self-quarantine after meeting a lawmaker who subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement broadcast on television on Thursday evening, Mahathir said that it was important to be “disciplined” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

“However, thank God, it is not so hard for me,” said Mahathir, who was a medical doctor before being first elected as a member of parliament in 1964.

Fourteen days is the maximum estimated incubation period for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 200,000 people worldwide.

Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Thursday that 110 new cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed across the country overnight, bringing the total to 900, the highest in South-East Asia.

Malaysia’s caseload has increased five-fold over the past week, prompting the government to impose a partial lockdown until the end of the month. Malaysians are not allowed leave the country, tourists cannot enter, and most businesses have been forced to close.

Muhyiddin Yassin, Mahathir’s successor as premier, appealed to Malaysians to “just stay at home” after health officials warned of a possible “tsunami” of coronavirus cases if the recent surge was not curbed.

Thousands of Malaysians attempted to travel from Kuala Lumpur, the biggest city, to their hometowns as the lockdown came into force. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Thursday that soldiers could be deployed to enforce the restrictions.

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