Malaysia entered a two-week nationwide lockdown Tuesday as the government moved to contain a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The nation's second lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, following one between March and May last year, comes after confirmed daily new cases reached a record 9,020 on Saturday, with a record one-day death toll of 98.
In a televised address on Monday night, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said, "If a drastic action is not taken immediately, it is feared that the health care system in our country will collapse and we will face a greater catastrophe."
Only essential manufacturing and services sectors are allowed to operate during the lockdown through May 14. Shopping malls must be closed. Manufacturing plants can continue to operate, apart from some industries, but require government permission.
People's movements will also be restricted, with only two people per household allowed to go out.
The government plans to move to "phase 2" with looser restrictions on businesses in two weeks if the current outbreak is reined in.
Malaysia has reported just under 7,000 daily virus cases this week, but the government projected that without the lockdown, they would nearly double to around 13,000 cases in two weeks.
On Tuesday, the ordinarily bustling streets of the largest city Kuala Lumpur were quiet. Shopping malls were deserted with most shops shuttered. Only restaurants were allowed to open for takeout.
Only a handful of staff were seen in offices around downtown Kuala Lumpur as many are working from home under a government policy that the private sector should operate with a 60 percent workforce.
When Malaysia first entered a lockdown last year, the government shut borders and barred nonessential travel. The economy ground to a halt.
In Monday's address, Muhyiddin unveiled a 40 billion ringgit ($9.7 billion) stimulus package to cushion the impact of the latest lockdown, including a 5 billion ringgit fiscal injection to increase public health care capacity, welfare payments and support for the business community.
Some 1 billion ringgit will go to increasing beds in intensive care units, equipment for COVID-19 treatment and covering other operational costs. Other relief measures include 2.1 billion ringgit of cash handouts.
The Southeast Asian country was on the road to recovery with gross domestic product growing 6 percent in March, the highest monthly growth since the pandemic hit.
Before the lockdown was imposed, the government had projected the economy would expand between 6.0 and 7.5 percent this year.