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Malaysia extends 1-month lockdown by another 2 weeks

Residents of a building under lockdown wait in line to test for COVID-19 during the Movement Control Order in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR (Kyodo) -- Malaysia on Friday extended its one-month lockdown by another two weeks through April 28 as the country continues to see daily triple-digit increases in its number of new coronavirus cases.

    "The extension is to give space to the healthcare workers to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, to prevent it from spreading further among the community," Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address.

    Malaysia began implementing the nationwide "movement control order," as it is officially known, on March 18, a day after it reported its first fatality from the disease. The death toll has since risen to 70 as of Friday.

    The health ministry reported 118 new infected cases on Friday, bringing the national tally to 4,346, the highest in Southeast Asia.

    Health Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah told a media briefing earlier in the day that a recommendation was made to the prime minister to extend the MCO due to data showing its effectiveness so far in fighting the virus.

    Under the MCO, schools, non-essential services and factories have been shut. The country's 32 million people except those in critical sectors like healthcare, enforcement agencies and food have to stay at home, with only one person per household allowed to go out to buy groceries or go to the bank.

    The authorities are clamping down hard on those who defy the order to stay home. Since the beginning of the lockdown until Thursday, 7,479 people have been detained. Offenders have been warned of a 1,000 ringgit (about $232) on-the-spot fine.

    Noting that the economy has been severely impacted by the lockdown, Muhyiddin said some sectors, previously ordered shut, will be allowed to open.

    According to the trade ministry, they include the automotive, construction, and legal sectors as well as barbers and spectacle shops.

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