Malaysia to deploy army to enforce virus restrictions

A man wears a facemask, amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Saloma Link Bridge in Kuala Lumpur on March 12, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — Malaysia will deploy the army to support the police in enforcing tough restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus because many people are flouting isolation rules, a minister said Friday.

People have been told to stay at home and all schools and most businesses have closed, while Malaysians are barred from traveling overseas and foreigners from entering the country.

But some are ignoring the measures introduced this week, with people still going for walks in parks and eating out.

Police had originally been tasked with enforcing the restrictions, but Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the army would be brought in from Sunday.

“We are confident that with the army’s help, stricter enforcement can be carried out,” he told a press conference.

“There are still many who don’t care about the orders from the government.”

Malaysia has so far reported 900 virus cases, the highest figure of any Southeast Asian country.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin previously appealed to Malaysians to abide by the restrictions, saying they are not an excuse to take a holiday or hang out with friends.

The measures were imposed after a surge in new infections — most linked to a mass Islamic gathering near Kuala Lumpur at the start of the month. Two people have so far died.

Globally, the death toll from the virus has risen to almost 10,000 with more than 232,000 cases in 158 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally.

© Agence France-Presse