Malaysia extends Covid-19 movement controls to sixth state, Kelantan, as cases continue to climb

The federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, administrative seat Putrajaya and the island of Labuan are also under MCO. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has extended its strict partial lockdown restrictions to another state - Kelantan - as the country's surge in coronavirus cases continued unabated on Friday (Jan 15).

Kelantan is the sixth state in Malaysia to come under the Movement Control Order (MCO), the National Security Council (NSC) announced on Friday, joining Melaka, Johor, Penang, Selangor and Sabah. The federal territories of the capital Kuala Lumpur, administrative seat Putrajaya and the island of Labuan are also under MCO.

Kelantan will be under MCO for 10 days from Saturday. The order is due to end on Jan 26, when all the other regions are set to end the two-week partial lockdown, barring any extensions.

Even though the lockdown, which covers much of the country's economic hubs, is into its third day, the number of infections showed no signs of slowing down, with 3,211 cases registered on Friday, the third-highest daily figure since the pandemic started. The cumulative total cases now stand at 151,066.

Friday's number is just slightly behind the 3,337 cases registered on Thursday, the highest ever recorded. The country has recorded over 3,000 daily infections four times in the past week alone, since registering 3,027 new infections on Jan 7.

Malaysia has consistently broken its daily infection record since the start of 2021, overcrowding its hospitals as active Covid-19 cases continued to consistently rise.

Despite registering 1,939 recoveries on Friday, the Health Ministry said that the number of active cases climbed further to 35,253 cases, far higher than the 28,674 beds it had prepared for Covid-19 patients as at December.

Eight more people died of Covid-19 on Friday, bringing the total to 586 deaths. A total of 115 of those deaths had been registered in the first two weeks of 2021 alone.

Kelantan's MCO came after the state registered high double-digit cases for much of the week. Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that there is a "drastic increase of cases" in the state, and that infection clusters were being reported from all over the east coast state.

The MCO implementation comes less than 24 hours after Kelantan's last flood relief centre was closed- as the recent flooding in the state which affected more than 6,000 people was declared to be over.

Kelantan has a population of two million people. The MCO imposed there means that about 20 million out of Malaysia's 32 million residents are now under the MCO.

The Health Ministry has said that it expects to be able to flatten the infection curve in Malaysia with a maximum four-week partial lockdown.

Unlike the first MCO implemented nationwide last year, Malaysia has chosen to allow certain sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, services, trade and plantations to remain operational in MCO states, given the high economic impact of shutdowns.

Under the MCO, restaurants are closed for dining in, with only takeaways allowed. Interstate and inter-district travel is banned, while any form of social gatherings is prohibited.

Selangor, the country's richest state, continued to register the most number of new infections, with 889 cases, followed by Sabah, where the third wave of the pandemic originated back in September - with 541 cases. Johor registered 535 new cases.

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