April 23, 2020 / 1:37 PM / a month ago

Malaysia extends coronavirus curbs to May 12, but likely with more exceptions

FILE PHOTO: Thai people wearing face shields and face masks who returned to their hometown due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID0-19) walk in line at Thai-Malaysia border Su-ngai Kolok district, Narathiwat, Thailand, April 18, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will extend travel and other curbs aimed at fighting the spread of COVID-19 by two weeks to May 12, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Thursday, but more sectors may be allowed to resume operations.

The country, which has so far reported 5,603 COVID-19 infections and 95 deaths, started a partial lockdown on March 18. For weeks Malaysia had the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, but daily increases have now slowed to double digits.

“Should the number of COVID-19 cases show significant reduction, the government may ease curbs on movement in stages in several sectors including the social sector,” Muhyiddin said in an address to the nation. He said the so-called movement control order (MCO) could still be extended further.

“Detailed guidelines will be given to investors and the corporate sector to restart their sectors,” he said.

“With the possibility of extending the period of the MCO, the government is studying methods to revive the economy in stages. This includes crafting an economic recovery plan over the short- and medium-term to ensure economic activity can be revived quickly at the end of the MCO.”

The premier said finance officials had been asked to formulate a plan for Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy that would encourage domestic spending, among other things.

Malaysia’s central bank forecast this month that the economy could shrink by as much as 2% or grow 0.5%, in what would be its worst economic performance in more than a decade. The economy grew 4.3% last year.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Heinrich

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