KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will bar citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country for about two weeks starting Wednesday, said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address on Monday (Mar 16).
The rules are part of a "restricted movement order" established by the Malaysian government to prevent further spread of the COVID-19, said Mr Muhyiddin.
From Mar 18 to Mar 31, all Malaysians are prohibited from leaving the country. Those who return from overseas will have to go through health checks and go on a 14-day self-quarantine, said Mr Muhyiddin.
Foreign visitors, including tourists, will also not be allowed to enter Malaysia during this period, he added.
Public gatherings and movements in the whole country, including religious events, sports meets, social and cultural activities will be prohibited, he said.
"To enforce this, all places of worship and business premises must be closed, except for supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities," said Mr Muhyiddin.
All schools and higher learning institutions will also be closed, he added.
Mr Muhyiddin also announced that all firms will be closed except for those involved in essential services such as water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, transport, oil, petrol, safety and defence.
"I realise that you may find all these inconvenient and disruptive to your daily routines. However, such action must be taken by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19, which could take away the lives of our people," said Mr Muhyiddin.
"We have seen the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in such a short time in other countries. I'm sure you don't want the same to happen in our country. We cannot wait until the situation gets worse.
"Drastic action has to be taken so that we can curb the spread of this virus by limiting people's movements. This is one of the ways that we can stop more Malaysians from being infected by this fatal disease," said Mr Muhyiddin.
DON'T PANIC AND STAY CALM: PM MUHYIDDIN
He also called for Malaysians to refrain from panicking.
"I hope you will be patient. Don't panic, don't be anxious and stay calm. I believe that these steps will help stop the spread of this virus," Mr Muhyiddin added.
The prime minister also assured that food and health necessities such as protective masks are in sufficient supply.
"I have directed the trade ministry to monitor the situation with food and daily necessities throughout the restricted movement order period," he said.
READ: Singapore "not facing any immediate risks of running out of food" - Chan Chun Sing on Malaysia's restricted movement order
"I beg all of you to please abide by the restricted movement order. This is our responsibility and we must carry out this responsibility as concerned citizens who care for our families, our community and our country," he added.
Mr Muhyiddin said that Malaysia's National Security Council will meet daily to monitor and control the COVID-19 situation.
"I will chair the meetings and will provide updates on the developments from time to time," he added.
Malaysia, the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia so far, reported 125 new infections on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 553.
More than 300 cases were linked to a gathering held at a mosque between Feb 28 and Mar 1 in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.
The event, attended by 16,000 people, has also led to infections in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said on Monday that all religious activities and Friday prayers at mosques and surau nationwide will be suspended for 10 days from Mar 17 to Mar 26.