Coronavirus: Malaysia to enter new lockdown as Muhyiddin warns of national crisis

a group of people standing around a table: A medical worker takes a swab sample from a woman in Kajang, Malaysia, to test for Covid-19. Photo: Xinhua A medical worker takes a swab sample from a woman in Kajang, Malaysia, to test for Covid-19. Photo: Xinhua

Malaysia will impose a nearly month-long nationwide partial lockdown starting Wednesday, the government has said, as new Covid-19 cases continue to rise ahead of this week's celebration of the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said with daily new cases nearing 4,000 and with 37,396 active cases, the country's third wave of the pandemic, which stretches back to last September, now threatened to evolve into a national crisis.

The prime minister said the decision to impose the new restriction was made in a National Security Council meeting he chaired earlier on Monday.

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"There are now Covid-19 variants that are more infectious while the capacity of the public health system is becoming more critical," Muhyiddin said. "(There are also) weaknesses in Covid-19 protocol compliance by some. These (factors) demands that the government take drastic action," he added.

Health officials earlier said 3,807 cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, with most occurring in the wealthy state of Selangor, followed by the commercial hub Kuala Lumpur. Johor and Penang, the two other major cities in Peninsular Malaysia, are also seeing a surge in cases.

The partial lockdown, known as a Movement Control Order (MCO), will begin on May 12 and end on June 7, Muhyiddin said.

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, second from right. Photo: DPA © Provided by South China Morning Post Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, second from right. Photo: DPA

The decision follows movement restrictions imposed on Kuala Lumpur on May 5. Under an MCO, social activities including dining out are banned and interstate travel is forbidden except for medical, work or other approved reasons.

With Eid ul-Fitr, locally known as Hari Raya Puasa, falling on Thursday, the new restrictions also banned house and grave visits associated with the festival.

Mosques with a normal capacity of 1,000 people will be allowed to hold special prayers on the day for up to 50 worshippers. A 20-person limit will be imposed on smaller venues.

The Southeast Asian nation began a Covid-19 vaccination drive in February with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac shots. On May 2, it launched a parallel inoculation programme for people who volunteered to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine amid public fears over its safety.

It also has detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India.

It has banned flights to and from India and prohibited travellers from any Indian destination from entering the country to help prevent the spread of the new variant.

Additional reporting by Reuters

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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Coronavirus: Malaysia to enter new lockdown as Muhyiddin warns of national crisis