KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said that the movement control measures which took effect on Wednesday (March 18) could be extended past their initial two weeks if they fail to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In a televised broadcast on Wednesday night, the premier said that the measures were introduced so that people could avoid having to go to crowded places, where they could be exposed to the coronavirus.
"We want to break the chain of infection. So that we can reduce the number of people who are infected by Covid-19," he said.
He explained that the incubation period for the virus is 14 days, and that the government hopes it would be able to quarantine all infected patients by then and eradicate the virus.
"If in that period we are not fully successful, the government may be forced to extend the period of the control order, maybe for two more weeks or longer," he said.
Malaysia is the worst-affected by the virus in South-east Asia, with the number of those infected reaching 790 cases, and two deaths reported.
The movement control order, which takes effect until March 31, bans public gatherings, and all religious, sporting, social and cultural events. Schools, universities and businesses will stay closed, but essential services such as supermarkets, banks and pharmacies will continue to operate during the two-week period.
Travel is also restricted, with Malaysian citizens barred from travelling overseas and tourists denied entry into the country.
Malaysia's police have also restricted inter-state travel within the country.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin's repeated pleas during his address for Malaysians to “just stay at home” came after people rushed to travel back to their hometowns on Tuesday, crowding for tickets at bus stations and clogging up the highways.
“The purpose of the order is not for you to go back to your hometowns, to attend functions, go shopping, go for walks in parks or visit holiday spots,” Mr Muhyiddin stressed in his address.
“Stay put where you are. Those who are in Kuala Lumpur, stay in Kuala Lumpur. Those who are in Johor Baru, stay in Johor Baru. Those in Penang, stay in Penang. If you have planned to go back to your hometowns, cancel those plans.”