PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has declared that Malaysia will be placed under a nationwide movement restriction order from Wednesday (March 18) to March 31, 2020, due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The order, the first in the country’s history, was announced by the prime minister in a live broadcast over national television tonight.

A total of 315 new positive cases of Covid-19 have been reported over the past two days, bringing the total in Malaysia to 553 cases.

Of this total, 511 have been hospitalised while 42 people have recovered.

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

He said all government and private premises would be closed, except for essential services such as utilities, telecommunications, transport, banking, health, pharmacies, ports, airports, cleaning and food supplies.

He said the movement restriction also means all Malaysians will be banned from travelling abroad, and that no tourists or foreigners will be allowed to enter the country. Those who have just arrived from abroad must undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

All public and private schools, including kindergartens, nurseries, residential school and other educational institutions are also to close. All private and public higher institutions of learning will also close.

Closure of all government and private premises except essential services such as water and electricity, telecommunication, postal service, transport, fuel, gas, lubrication, broadcasting, banking, health, pharmacy, fire-fighting, ports, airports, prisons, security and defence, sanitary services, provision and food supply.

The order also calls on a ban on all mass gatherings, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.

The Prime Minister said the measures were taken to protect the rakyat from the spread of the virus but advised Malaysian to not panic and stay calm.

Muhyiddin added that the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs will ensure that the supply of groceries and health care essentials will be readily available.

He also said that the government will address the situation daily and provided a hotline number - 0388882010- that will answer any queries from the public.

In an immediate response, former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told theSun that the order was the right action made in the right time.

“I am okay with it because it is in line with what I was advocating, I did not implement this earlier because at that time it wasn’t warranted and it wasn’t the right thing to do then,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdullah said that the provision of Section 11 (5) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 is read together with Section 24(a) of the same act.

Haniff said this would make any breach to the restriction order a criminal offence.

“The offense under section 11(5) carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment. Whereas the second offence under section 24(b) warrants a maximum imprisonment sentence of five years.”

He also urged government officials to give a clear guideline on the extent of which a member of public can be out before it is considered an offense.

“This is to ensure proper and dutiful compliance on the part of public and to allow strict enforcement by the authorities.” he told theSun.