Malaysian PM to speak to public at 6pm as govt mulls over partial lockdown to curb soaring Covid-19 cases

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to announce further restrictions via a special telecast at 6pm on Monday (Jan 11) to contain the soaring number of daily infections that remains consistently in the thousands in recent weeks, with two Cabinet ministers becoming the disease’s latest victims.

Malaysia on Sunday recorded 2,451 new Covid-19 cases and nine deaths. Of all states, Selangor had the most cases, with 730.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah in a press statement on Sunday said he was particularly worried about the high number of deaths in recent weeks. Since Jan 1, there have been 71 fatalities. On Jan 7, the country also recorded the highest number of cases at 3,027 since the start of the pandemic.

Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed tested positive for the coronavirus last Saturday, three days after he attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) meeting at which Tan Sri Muhyiddin and several other Cabinet members were present.

Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, tested positive for the disease on Sunday. She was admitted to hospital on Monday.

Malaysia has reported a record number of cases on several occasions since the third wave of coronavirus infections began to sweep across the country in September. The latest surge in infections was blamed on the political campaigners who returned from the Sabah state after a two-week campaign for the Sept 26 state election, bringing with them the disease that caused a spike in infections across the peninsula.

The soaring cases are also taking a toll on Malaysia’s front-line workers. In December, the health ministry said a total of 1,771 healthcare workers – majority of whom were nurses – had been infected by Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Two-thirds of those cases were reported in the third wave of the infections.

Last week, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham had called for a targeted lockdown, although businesses have expressed concerns that wider restrictions would further damage the economy.

Malaysia first imposed the movement control order (MCO) on March 18 last year, shutting down most businesses, malls, restaurants. It also barred the public from attending any social gatherings.

The restrictions were eased on May 4 to allow the business sectors to resume operations as the number of cases reduced.

It then entered a recovery phase, called the recovery movement control order (RMCO), on June 9.

But the government imposed a conditional movement control order (CMCO) in the capital Kuala Lumpur, the states of Selangor and Putrajaya, and several areas, amid a resurgence of cases triggered by the September Sabah election.

Even as cases continue to soar, the government did not restrict interstate and inter-district travel in much of Malaysia.

Malaysia has recorded a total of 135,992 Covid-19 cases and 551 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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