KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's nationwide movement restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus have been extended from March 31 to April 14, as infections have not been reduced.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a special address on Wednesday (March 25) that the government decided on the two-week extension of border closures and shutdowns for non-essential businesses, as the number of new Covid-19 infections "is expected to continue for a while before new cases begin to reduce".
"This presses the government to continue the Movement Control Order (MCO) for a longer period. I am announcing this extension earlier so you can be better prepared," he said in a speech televised nationally. "Just be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time."
Tan Sri Muhyiddin initially said on Monday that an extension, as well as a second stimulus package to follow last month's RM20 billion (S$6.58 billion) injection, would be decided only on March 30.
But he has brought forward the timetable, and revealed that the new economic boost will instead be announced on Friday.
"God willing, no one will be left behind," he said.
The premier noted that the number of infections as of noon on Wednesday was 1,796, more than double the 673 tally just a week ago, and the number of deaths has climbed to 19.
"I was briefed by the National Security Council that the increase in positive Covid-19 cases is expected to rise even higher if we do nothing," he said.
While Mr Muhyiddin noted that the number of new infections being detected since the MCO, which he previously referred to as the Restriction of Movement Order, was enforced on March 18 had flattened, he insisted that "we cannot be satisfied with the steps we have taken for now until we record zero new cases".
But the Premier called for Malaysians to "stay calm and don't panic", as food supply and healthcare facilities were sufficient. He revealed that only a third of the 3,585 beds across 34 hospitals made ready for Covid-19 patients were currently utilised.
The government has also gazetted 409 locations as quarantine centres.
"I assure you that food is enough for everybody. I know you feel burdened but I don't have a choice. I have to extend the Movement Control Order for your own safety," Mr Muhyiddin said.
In his speech, the Prime Minister thanked those who adhered to the order, with compliance now rising to 95 per cent from an initial 60 per cent last week.
But with police saying 110 arrests have been made so far due to breaches of the MCO, Mr Muhyiddin said stern action was necessary to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.
He reminded Malaysians that "if this order is not obeyed, it will not bear positive results and all our measures will have been in vain".