Covid-19: Malaysia PM orders 'total lockdown' amid surge in coronavirus infections
Virus spread in recent weeks has been more severe, partly due to variants.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday announced a nationwide "total lockdown" starting in June as coronavirus infections in the country surged to record levels.
Muhyiddin said the stricter lockdown from June 1 to 14 was for all social and economic sectors, and that only essential services would remain in operation.
The Covid-19 spread in the Southeast Asian nation in recent weeks has been more severe, partly due to highly transmissible coronavirus variants. Hospitals are also strained.
"With the latest rise in daily cases showing a drastically upward trend, hospital capacity across the country to treat Covid-19 patients are becoming limited," Muhyiddin said in a statement.
Malaysia reported 8,290 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its fourth straight day of record infections and bringing the total number of cases to 549,514.
It also reported 61 deaths. The number of daily fatalities have been rising, with a record daily toll of 63 earlier this week.
Malaysia has started its Covid-19 inoculation drive, though critics say the rollout has been slow. About 1.7 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Thursday.
Given the full closure of the economy, the finance ministry will announce a relief package for individuals and economic sectors soon, Muhyiddin said.
If Malaysia can reduce the number of cases in the first two weeks of the lockdown, the government will allow some sectors to reopen slowly over the course of next four weeks - after which all economic sectors would be allowed to operate, he said.
Malaysia has already rolled out over 300 billion ringgit ($72.60 billion) of stimulus packages since last year to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
It is also under a state of emergency since January to curb the spread of the virus, suspending parliament and essentially putting an end to political activities amid a power struggle.
Malaysia's economy was on the path to recovery in the first quarter before infections began to spike.
It fell 5.6 per cent in 2020, its worst annual performance since the Asian financial crisis, but the central bank had projected growth of 6-7.5 per cent this year.
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