Malaysia will be in a nationwide lockdown from this Wednesday (March 18) until March 31 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced today.

Muhyiddin said this means that all business premises have to be shut down, except for outlets such as supermarkets and grocery stores selling daily essentials.

All government and private premises would be closed during the lockdown, except for essential services such as utilities, telecommunications, transport, banking, health, pharmacies, ports, airports, cleaning and food supplies.

The lockdown also means all Malaysians will be banned from travelling abroad, and that no tourists or foreigners will be allowed to enter the country.

Private businesses will also be asked to close their offices, with many public and private firms activating their work-from-home protocols. For example, Celcom Axiata Berhad has encouraged employees to work online and receive remote support via digital channels and platforms, while accountancy firm Baker Tilly Malaysia has closed its offices, with employees working from home and communicating via channels like WhatsApp or Skype.

The government has announced a stimulus package on 27 February, aimed at alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Financial institutions have also announced various debt mitigation and restructuring measures for affected businesses. Despite this, the economic recovery is projected to be slow, with the KLCI dropping below 1,200 points on Monday amidst a slowdown on Wall Street as well as other regional stock markets.

Meanwhile, Malaysians are encouraged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. Any offences under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 may be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to fine or to both. This may also extend to employers providing non-essential services, who continue to work despite the lockdown order.

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