In line with the rapid spread of infections caused by the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19), many governments including Malaysia, have imposed community quarantines and restricted movement across borders to prevent the transfer of the virus within communities.
In the most recent update by the Ministry of Health as of March 17, the total number of reported cases in the country has spiked to 673, the highest in Southeast Asia so far.
Malaysia Implements 2-Week Lockdown to Address Coronavirus Spread
In effect, Prime Minister Muhyiddini Yassin said all religious institutions, schools, businesses, and government offices will be shut from Wednesday, March 18 until March 31. All mass gatherings will be banned and only essential services including supermarkets, banks, gas stations, and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open, as shared in a report by Yahoo! News Malaysia.
In line with the declaration, PM Muhyiddini said Malaysians will not be allowed to travel overseas, and all foreign visitors will be banned from entering the country.
Furthermore, all Malaysians returning from overseas will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
According to the health ministry, the recent spike in the number of cases in the country which prompted the lockdown was related to a recent 16,000-member religious gathering at a mosque in a Kuala Lumpur suburb that also sickened dozens from Brunei and Singapore.
Also on March 17, Malaysia recorded two deaths from Covid-19, the first fatalities due to the pandemic in the country.
According to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Adham Baba said the deaths involved case number 178, which was reported in Johor and case number 358, reported in Sarawak.
Dr. Adham noted that one of the two fatalities, case 178 is a Malaysian aged 34, who had attended the tabligh gathering at Masjid Jamek Seri Petaling recently.
According to the ministry’s report, the victim showed symptoms on March 5 and received treatment at Hospital Permai, Johor Baru after he was tested positive for Covid-19.
However, the man’s condition deteriorated and was placed under the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sultanah Aminah Hospital, but on Tuesday morning was pronounced dead by doctors.
Meanwhile, case 358 is a 60-year-old Malaysian who had a history of chronic illness, added Dr. Adham.
The victim showed symptoms of fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing on March 7.
And similarly, the victim’s health deteriorated and he was placed at the ICU at the Sarawak General Hospital and also died on Tuesday.
Because of these developments, fears of a lockdown have prompted panic buying at many shops and supermarkets across the nation.
In a televised message aired on late Monday, Muhyiddin said that the measures, under the Restriction of Movement Order, are needed to prevent the outbreak from worsening. He urged Malaysians to stay calm, saying there would be a sufficient supply of food and adequate health care, including masks for everyone.
Muhyiddin added, “We cannot wait until the situation deteriorates. Drastic moves are needed immediately to restrict public movement and curb the spread of the virus.”
Few hours before the announcement of the lockdown, Muhyiddin announced additional financial aid to help the poor cope, including cash handouts for about 33,000 workers on unpaid leave, discounts on electricity bills for six months and early payments of cash aid to low-income families. The government earlier also unveiled a 20-billion ringgit ($4.7 billion) stimulus program to sustain the economy.
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