KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has hit the nation’s tourism sector hard, with an expected loss of RM3.37 billion within the first two months of the year, said Prime Minister Tan Seri Muhyiddin Yassin tonight.

As a result, Muhyiddin said Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the year is expected to shrink as much as 0.8 to 1.2 points, with a total potential loss of up to RM17.3 billion.

“I am aware that some of you are economically affected by the outbreak of this disease. Some are asked to take time off, work from home, and even lose their jobs. Economically, the sectors most affected are tourism, small and medium enterprises, and the transport industry.

“Tour packages are cancelled and this affects those who work with airlines and hotels. The estimated total loss in the tourism sector from January to February 2020 was RM3.37 billion. The government estimates Malaysia’s GDP decreased by 0.8 per cent to 1.2 per cent, a decrease of RM10.8 billion to RM17.3 billion,’’ he said in a special address.

“I am aware that urgent steps must be taken by the government to reduce the impact of this outbreak on the country’s economy, especially for the people. To this end, the government will ensure that the announced economic stimulus package will be monitored for implementation so that the impact will be felt by all of you immediately,’’ he added.

Muhyiddin was referring to the Stimulus Package 2020 that was announced by interim prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last month to reduce the economic impact of Covid-19.

However, the RM20 billion stimulus package could widen the country’s fiscal deficit from 3.2 per cent to 3.4 per cent as a ratio of the nation’s GDP, said Dr Mahathir during the announcement on February 27.

At the same time, Dr Mahathir also said the government was slashing Malaysia’s GDP growth target for the year from 4.8 per cent to between 3.2 and 4.2 per cent.

To date, Malaysia is imposing entry bans on travellers from Italy, Iran and South Korea, effective today (March 13) following the Covid-19 outbreak in these countries.

Muhyiddin also stated in his address that ships will only be allowed to dock to resupply while only Malaysian crew members are allowed to disembark and will go through the appropriate screening process by health officials.