Coronavirus hits operations in district of Malaysia's key palm producer Sabah

Sabah has ordered plantations, mills and refineries in one district to shut amid two weeks of curbs on movement. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia's largest palm producing state of Sabah has ordered plantations, mills and refineries in one district to shut amid two weeks of curbs on movement to rein in the coronavirus.

Operations in the district of Kunak were suspended from Tuesday (Sept 29) until Oct 12, the district council said in a notice.

"Kunak is not allowed to operate, including plantations, mills and refinery," Christopher Chai, a general manager of Kwantas Corp based in the Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, told Reuters.

"However, owners have appealed."

Sabah, which produces 25 per cent of Malaysia's crude palm output, imposed the curbs in four districts on Monday, after a surge in infections.

The surge in cases in Sabah comes after the state held elections at the weekend, where the nation's ruling coalition continued its streak of victories to win the key opposition state amid challenges to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's premiership.

The election was dogged by politicians testing positive for the virus as the state became the new epicentre of Malaysia's outbreak.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, non-essential businesses in Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak and Semporna district will be required to shut down starting Tuesday for a period of 14 days.

Malaysia had on Sunday reported the highest daily surge in coronavirus cases since Sept 11, the majority of them in Sabah.

Officials confirmed 150 new infections on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry, with 124 reported in the Borneo state. There was one additional death, also from Sabah, raising the national tally to 134.

Another 115 new cases were reported on Monday, bringing the country's total infections since the outbreak began to 11,034.

The authorities have added more health workers and equipment at the country's main Kuala Lumpur International Airport to check on flight passengers from Sabah, following complaints on social media that many had to queue between three and six hours to get Covid-19 tests, The Star reported.

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