Malaysia has extended a countrywide lockdown by two weeks to 14 April as the coronavirus continues to spread.
The government's "movement control order" had been due to expire on 31 March, but prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin today extended the measure in an attempt to break the chain of infections. There are 1,796 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Malaysia, the highest in southeast Asia.
The lockdown has already forced Brazilian iron ore producer Vale to suspend operations at its Teluk Rubiah terminal and sparked concerns of a worker shortage at refining and petrochemical companies in Singapore, which rely heavily on staff that cross the border from Malaysia each day.
Most Malaysian energy and commodity producers are continuing to operate, including most mills and plantations in the palm oil sector. Malaysia is the world's second-biggest exporter of palm oil behind neighbouring Indonesia. But the extension of the lockdown, which was first implemented on 18 March, threatens to complicate operations and hit domestic commodity demand.
The coronavirus outbreak is spreading in southeast Asia. Thailand yesterday declared a one-month state of emergency. Cases are rising in Indonesia, which is a major exporter of LNG, coal, palm oil and other commodities. And the regional trading hub of Singapore is tightening restrictions on social gatherings amid an increase in imported cases.
By Kevin Foster