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Malaysia army to enforce coronavirus lockdown as cases top 1,000

Malaysia is locked down [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2020

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Malaysia has the highest recorded number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, and the government has decided to deploy the military in an effort to stop its spread.
Malaysia will deploy the army to support police in enforcing tough restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus because many people are flouting isolation rules, a minister said.

People have been told to stay at home and all schools and most businesses have closed, while Malaysians are barred from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country.

But some are ignoring the measures introduced this week, with people still going for walks in parks and eating out.

Police had originally been tasked with enforcing the restrictions, but Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the army would be brought in from Sunday.

"We are confident that with the army's help, stricter enforcement can be carried out," he told a press conference.

"There are still many who don't care about the orders from the government."

Malaysia has so far reported 900 virus cases, the highest figure of any Southeast Asian country.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin previously appealed to Malaysians to abide by the restrictions, saying they are not an excuse to take a holiday or hang out with friends.

The measures were imposed after a surge in new infections - most linked to a mass Islamic gathering near Kuala Lumpur at the start of the month. Two people have so far died.

Globally, the death toll from the virus has risen to almost 10,000 with more than 232,000 cases in 158 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally.

Most Malaysia coronavirus cases 'linked to one event'

Malaysia said on Sunday that more than half the country's 428 coronavirus cases were linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month.

The Southeast Asian nation announced a spike of 190 new infections over the weekend, mostly linked to a global Islamic event attended by almost 20,000 people.

“Of the 428 cases, 243 are participants from the religious event in Sri Petaling mosque,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of the health ministry, told AFP.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

Brunei reported 10 new cases on Saturday, raising the total to 50, most in people who attended the Malaysia gathering.

Singapore has also announced cases linked to the event.

On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin warned Malaysia of a second wave of infections spread and urged people to avoid mass gatherings.

Ahmad Farouk, a lecturer at Monash University said that authorities should shut down mosques for at least two weeks to contain the spread of the virus.

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