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Movement curbs kicked in in Malaysia

Christian Fernsby ▼ | March 18, 2020
Malaysia warned of a fresh wave of coronavirus infections if people did not follow two week movement restrictions that started today after cases in the country spiked to the highest in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia street
Malaysia   Malaysia street
It has so far reported two coronavirus deaths, including a man who attended a mass Muslim gathering linked to nearly two thirds of the country’s 673 infections. Thousands of the attendees still remain to be tested, raising the risk of an even greater spread of the virus.

Topics: Malaysia

“We have a slim chance to break the chain of COVID-19 infections,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director general of Health Malaysia, said in a Facebook post.

“Failure is not an option here. If not, we may face a third wave of this virus, which would be greater than a tsunami, if we maintain a “so what” attitude.”

Malaysia and the Philippines, which has quarantined about half its 107 million population, have imposed the toughest restrictions on movements of people in Southeast Asia, causing early confusion and chaos, although capital markets in both countries will stay open.

Hours before the movement curbs kicked in at midnight in Malaysia, thousands of people queued up at bus stations to go back to their hometowns. Hordes of Malaysians who commute daily to Singapore for work crossed the border to spend the next two weeks there.

“Mass gatherings at bus terminals and then folks going all over the country from the active COVID-19 area. Are we not potentially spreading it nationwide?” Malaysian physician Christopher Lee asked on Twitter.

Roads in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, normally some of the most congested in Southeast Asia on weekdays, were largely clear on Wednesday. Some cafes and restaurants opened, but customers were allowed only takeaway food.