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. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on March 23 that the government may consider extending movement restrictions by up to two weeks, and would announce more economic stimulus to soften the blow from the coronavirus outbreak and weak oil prices. He also said the national security council would meet on March 30 to discuss on what will be the subsequent steps after the current curbs on movement and businesses expire at the end of the month, as per reports.
The government had announced nationwide curbs on March 16, after 190 new infections were detected the previous day, doubling the number of existing cases to 428.
Since the restricted movement order, RMO was imposed on March 18, Malaysia has managed to avoid an exponential increase as seen in some other countries, which the Prime Minister reportedly said, shows that the order had positive results. However, the number of new cases continues to increase over 100 daily, surging to 1,306 in total, and the past week saw the first 11 deaths reported in Malaysia due to Covid-19, as per reports. March 18-31 restriction, which mandated the closure of most commercial activities and border closures, say experts, needs to be extended by up to two months.
However, the economic impact of the RMO has been sorely felt in a week. Coupled with oil prices hitting their lowest in 17 years, fossil fuel-linked sectors make up a fifth of Malaysia’s gross domestic product, with which there are growing fears that over a million employees could end up jobless from the shutdown.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said that a comprehensive stimulus package, following on an initial RM20 billion (S$6.56 billion) that has been launched last month, will be unveiled on 30th March. He also announced that that 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 generate about RM40 billion of funds in stages from next month, as per reports.
It was also revealed that RM130 million will be divided equally among Malaysia’s 13 states to aid small traders, Covid-19 victims and front liners in the fight against the virus, as per reports.