Covid-19 hits operations in key palm oil producing state of Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR • Sabah, which is Malaysia's largest palm oil producing state, has ordered plantations, mills and refineries in four districts to shut amid two weeks of curbs on movement to rein in Covid-19.

Operations in the district of Kunak were suspended from yesterday until Oct 12, the district council said in a notice.

"Kunak is not allowed to operate, including plantations, mills and refinery," Mr 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 coronavirus infections.

The surge in Covid-19 cases comes after Sabah 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 the four districts - Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak and Semporna - had to close for 14 days, starting from yesterday.

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

Officials confirmed 150 new infections that day, according to the Health Ministry, with 124 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.

Meanwhile, the authorities have stationed more health workers and equipment at Malaysia'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 newspaper reported.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2020, with the headline Covid-19 hits operations in key palm oil producing state of Sabah. Subscribe