SG News (Straits Times)

KL to decide on lockdown extension next week

By March 29, 2020 No Comments
A family wearing face masks on a nearly empty beach in Penang yesterday, amid a partial lockdown in Malaysia to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 1,518 yesterday.

A family wearing face masks on a nearly empty beach in Penang yesterday, amid a partial lockdown in Malaysia to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 1,518 yesterday.

Malaysia will decide next week whether its two-week restricted movement order (RMO) to contain the coronavirus outbreak needs to be extended beyond the end of the month, as it reported its biggest daily jump in infections yesterday.

The government will also unveil a second stimulus package in as many months, as it seeks to contain the economic fallout of both the global pandemic and tanking oil prices.

Malaysia saw 212 new infections yesterday, which brought the total number of cases to 1,518, the Health Ministry said. The death toll from the coronavirus rose to 14, from 10 on Sunday.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday at a news conference that the National Security Council – which he chairs – will meet next Monday to decide on the RMO extension based on whether “figures and data show a reduction” in infections from the current trend.

“We will study and announce whether two weeks is sufficient or we will extend (the RMO) for a week or two from March 31,” he said.

Nationwide curbs were announced on Monday last week after 190 new cases were detected the previous day, nearly doubling the number of existing cases to 428 then.

Since the RMO was imposed last Wednesday, Malaysia has avoided an exponential increase in cases as seen in some other countries, which the Prime Minister said “likely shows the order has positive results”. But new cases continue to number over 100 daily, and the past week has seen the first 14 deaths recorded in Malaysia.

Several experts have said the March 18 to 31 restriction – which mandated border closures and cessation of most commercial activities – needs to be extended by up to two months.

But a week in, the economic impact of the RMO has already been sorely felt. Coupled with oil prices hitting their lowest in 17 years – fossil fuel-linked sectors make up a fifth of Malaysia’s gross domestic product – there are growing fears that over a million employees could end up jobless from the shutdown.

 
 
 
 

Tan Sri Muhyiddin said a comprehensive stimulus package – following on an initial RM20 billion (S$6.56 billion) package already launched last month – will be unveiled next Monday.

Meanwhile, he announced that about 12 million workers aged below 55 would be allowed to withdraw RM500 monthly for the next year from their Employees Provident Fund accounts. The government estimates that this will release about RM40 billion of funds in stages beginning next month.

Another RM500 million will be injected into the Health Ministry to procure equipment to fight the coronavirus, and an additional RM100 million will be available to hire up to 2,000 contract healthcare workers.

Mr Muhyiddin, speaking after the weekly Economic Action Council meeting, also revealed that RM130 million will be divided equally among Malaysia’s 13 states to aid small traders, Covid-19 victims and front-line workers.

The deferment of student loans under the government’s Higher Education Fund has also been extended from three months to six.

Coronavirus: Will Malaysia’s lockdown be extended? | The Straits Times
 
0