Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that he is extending the country's movement curbs by another two weeks, as the government continues its effort to reduce infections caused by the coronavirus.
In a speech telecast live on national television and social media platforms, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the movement control order (MCO) will be extended from April 15 to April 28 based on the feedback from the Health Ministry and medical experts.
"The MCO has helped healthcare workers contain the spread of the infection... But we need to be ready to face this situation for quite a while; it may go on for a few more months before we can really make sure that the spread has been 100 per cent curbed," he said.
He added: "Let me remind you that the war on Covid-19 is not yet over. The fight is still on. We are doing well so far, so just uplift your spirit and continue to fight."
The MCO was into its 24th day yesterday, with most of Malaysia's 32 million population staying at home unless they needed to buy groceries, medicine or food, or to carry out essential services.
The MCO started on March 18 and was initially slated for a period of two weeks to March 31, but was extended by two weeks to April 14.
Yesterday, the country reported 118 new cases to bring the total to 4,346 infections, with three more deaths to raise the fatalities to 70.
However, the country has also recorded more recoveries than new Covid-19 cases for three days in a row, with 222 patients discharged yesterday, bringing the tally to 1,830, or 42.1 per cent of total infections.
The two-week extension comes ahead of the Ramadan fasting month that starts on April 24.
The fasting month typically sees the mushrooming of the hugely popular food bazaars across the country, while many Muslims would also attend mass terawih prayers in mosques every night.
The federal government and most state governments have banned the bazaars this year, and have asked people to buy their breaking-of-fast food online.
Mosques have been closed since the start of the MCO.
Mr Muhyiddin said that "with the upcoming Ramadan, we can no longer visit the bazaars to buy food to break fast. And we will also not be able to hold terawih prayers at the mosques. So, perform your terawih prayers at home with family".
The Prime Minister in his speech noted how badly the economy has been hit following implementation of the restrictions on movement, and said the government has agreed to allow several economic sectors to operate in stages.
These included barbers and laundry services - but not self-service outlets. Others were hardware and electrical shops, and optometrists.
But reopening these sectors comes with a caveat. "I would like to stress that the reopening of several sectors does not mean we are loosening the MCO... If there is a manufacturer, factory or company that violated the rules, the government will withdraw its permission," he said.
As social distancing measures are likely to stay at least for the next few months, Mr Muhyiddin urged Malaysians to adapt to a "new normal" as they can no longer do what they have been accustomed to, like shaking hands.
"Maybe after this, we will just bow our heads as a sign of respect. And this is the new normal," he said.