KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The government will control public movements from March 18 to March 31 amid the Covid-19 outbreak, closing all places of worship and business premises, except for markets and stores selling daily necessities.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also announced a ban on mass gatherings throughout Malaysia, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities, after over 500 novel coronavirus cases were reported in the country as of today, without any fatalities yet.
He did not proclaim a national emergency, which would entail a curfew and other national security measures.
All Malaysians will be prohibited from traveling overseas from March 18 to March 31, while those returning from abroad will be required to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days. Tourists and foreigners will be barred from entering Malaysia during this period.
“The government has decided to impose a Movement Control Order, starting from March 18, which is the day after tomorrow, until March 31 nationwide. This order is made under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967,” Muhyiddin said in a national address today.
All kindergartens and government and private schools, including everyday schools, boarding schools, international schools, tahfiz centres, other primary, secondary and pre-university education institutions, as well as all public and private higher education institutions, will also be closed from March 18 to 31.
All government and private premises will be shuttered, except for those providing essential services — water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, post, transport, water, oil, gas, fuels, lubricants, broadcast, finance, banking, health, pharmacy, Bomba, prisons, ports, airports, security, defence, cleaning, groceries, and food supply.
“We have seen the surge of the Covid-19 outbreak from dozens infected by the virus to thousands in a short span of time in several countries,” Muhyiddin said.
“I am sure that all of you do not want the same thing happening in our country.”
The prime minister said Malaysia cannot wait until things get worse.
“Drastic action must be taken immediately to stop the outbreak by controlling public movements. This is one of the ways we can take to prevent more citizens of this country from getting infected by this deadly outbreak.”
Muhyiddin assured Malaysians of a sufficient supply of food, daily necessities, and health care, including face masks, even as private hospitals have complained about a lack of face masks and personal protective equipment for medical staff.
“I have ordered the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to regularly monitor the situation on food supply and daily necessities in markets throughout the enforcement of the Movement Control Order,” said the prime minister.
He added that the National Security Council will meet daily to monitor the Covid-19 outbreak.
The federal government earlier today announced a suspension of all mosque and surau activities in the Federal Territories by royal decree of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, including Friday and congregational prayers, from March 17 to March 26, urging state religious departments to follow suit.
Update at 11:50pm:
The Prime Minister’s Office clarified that Muhyiddin was not declaring a lockdown, but a movement control order.