March 16, 2020 / 11:47 AM / 19 days ago

Malaysia closes borders, schools and businesses as virus tally climbs

A man wearing a protective mask walks in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, following the coronavirus outbreas, in Sepang, Malaysia March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/Files

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will shut its borders to travellers, restrict internal movement, close schools and universities and order most businesses to shut after its number of coronavirus cases climbed on Monday to the highest in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia reported a daily jump of 125 cases to 553, nearly two-thirds of them linked to an Islamic gathering attended by 16,000 people, including 1,500 from other countries.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made a televised speech to announce the measures, which will initially be in force from Wednesday until March 31.

Schools and universities will be shut; so will government and private business except for those providing essential services, Muhyiddin said. Foreigners will not be allowed into the country and citizens will not be allowed to leave.

So far, 338 of Malaysia’s cases have been linked to the religious gathering at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur between Feb. 28 and March 1.

Of the 14,500 Malaysians who attended the event, only 7,000 have come forward for testing despite repeated pleas from government and religious officials, the health minister said.

The gathering has been linked to cases in Singapore, Brunei and Cambodia.

(Corrects paragraph 4 to clarify travel restrictions and remove erroneous reference to Malaysian citizens being forbidden to enter)

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan, writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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