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Malaysia may extend curbs if coronavirus outbreak continues to spread

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PM Muhyiddin Yassin hopes to quarantine all patients and eradicate virus within two weeks

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia yesterday said it may consider extending the restriction of movement order if it fails to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the current curbs, which started yesterday and is expected to end on March 31, will work only if the public abide by the restrictions, which he said were to "break the chain of infection", Reuters reported.

"Hence, it is important for all of us to separate ourselves and our families from exposure by staying at home," Mr Muhyiddin said in a televised address.

He explained that the incubation period for the virus is 14 days, and that the government hopes it will be able to quarantine all infected patients by then and eradicate the virus, The Straits Times reported.

"If in that period we are not fully successful, the government may be forced to extend the period of the control order," he said.

The 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.

Malaysia recorded 117 new cases, bringing it to a total of 790 cases as of noon yesterday, the Health Ministry said. There have been two deaths so far.

There were 11 patients who have been discharged, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 60, the Star reported.

A total of 80 of the 117 new cases were linked to the religious gathering at Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling, which brings the number of linked cases to 513.

Mr Muhyiddin's repeated pleas for Malaysians to "just stay at home" came after people rushed to travel back to their hometown 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 hometown, to attend functions, go shopping, go for walks in parks or visit holiday spots," Mr Muhyiddin stressed.

Earlier yesterday, the Johor state government said it hopes to reopen the border with Singapore within the next few days, The Star reported.

Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said this will be done with more stringent health checks on both sides of the border.

"We are coming up with a mitigation plan... Among the categories exempted are those with work passes by Malaysia or Singapore, students studying in Singapore, those with specialised skills, businessmen, those involved in logistics and others that will be announced soon," he said yesterday.

Beginning yesterday, the border between Malaysia and Singapore has been locked down, except for lorries and people with special permission.