Malaysia extends virus lockdown to mid-April as deaths hit 19 – dpa international


Lockdown as seen Iinside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on March 25 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

Lockdown as seen Iinside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on March 25 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will extend restrictions aimed at stemming rising numbers of new coronavirus cases until mid-April, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday.

“The trend [of new infections] is expected to continue for a while before new cases begin to subside,” Muhyiddin said in a televised lunchtime address, announcing that curbs on travel and business imposed a week ago will be extended to April 14.

“The public must be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time,” the prime minister warned.

Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced later on Wednesday that 19 people have died in the country after contracting Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the pandemic that has killed over 19,000 worldwide.

Around two-thirds of Malaysia’s 1,796 infections, the third-highest number in the Asia-Pacific region, have been traced to an Islamic ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur in late February.

Malaysia was then without a government after former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned on February 24, throwing the country into a week of political turmoil.

Police estimates on Wednesday suggested that over 90 per cent of the 15,000-16,000 who attended the event have since been tested for coronavirus.

Yet civil society groups say most of the estimated several hundred refugees and undocumented migrants who were among the congregation are reluctant to come forward due to fear of arrest.

Though Malaysia’s coronavirus caseload is low relative to the pandemic’s epicentre in Europe, it is growing fast, having increased more than ten-fold from just 149 cases two weeks ago.

As the virus spread, Muhyiddin announced on March 16 that Malaysia would go into lockdown to try to curb the infection rate.

The government banned tourists from entering the country and Malaysians from leaving and told residents to stay at home unless running essential errands or commuting to work.

Announcing the extension of the restrictions on Wednesday, Muhydiddin said that “more than 95 per cent of people have complied,” though police stated separately that 110 people had been arrested for infractions.

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