Malaysia reports 4,865 new Covid-19 cases, highest since January; states seek private vaccination access

The rising number of infections piles pressure on authorities to increase the vaccine rollout in Malaysia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, XINHUA) - Malaysia has recorded 4,865 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (May 18) - its highest since the end of January - to bring the country's cumulative total to 479,421. The country also recorded 47 deaths from the coronavirus, a single-day high.

In a Twitter post, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said Selangor had 1,743 new cases and is the state with the highest figure.

Sarawak is second highest with 512 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur (477), Johor (407) and Kelantan (406). Malaysia last saw 5,298 infections on Jan 31.

Dr Noor Hisham said in a press statement on Tuesday that new variants of the Covid-19 virus were partly blamed for the surge in new cases and daily deaths.

"This is because new variants of concern are linked to a higher infectivity rate and a higher death rate," he said, urging the public to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary travel or gatherings, in compliance with a nationwide movement control order issued by the government.

The top health official also said Malaysia's health system, currently coping with over 40,000 active cases, is under severe pressure.

The rising number of infections piles pressure on the authorities to speed up the vaccine roll-out in Malaysia, with some states looking to allow private sector employers to purchase shots for their staff.

Northern state Penang has asked the Health Ministry to reconsider its request and give approval to receive two million doses of vaccines from a private company.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the ministry, in a letter dated March 12, had declined to give approval for the company to sponsor the vaccines.

Mr Chow expressed bafflement on Tuesday that approval was given to other states, including Selangor, to purchase the vaccines but not to Penang.

"We have written a letter on Feb 24 seeking approval for the vaccines from China, sponsored by a private company as part of its corporate social responsibility.

"However, the ministry rejected the offer saying the National Immunisation Programme was on schedule and Penang was part of it, as such, there was no need for the vaccines," said Mr Chow at a press conference on Tuesday.

"If it is allowed, we will be able to vaccinate 80 per cent of the people in Penang and the vaccines for Penang under the programme could be distributed to other states."

Mr Chow said with the increasing number of new cases, there was a need for an urgent solution to the issue and the Health Ministry should reconsider its stand.

"We want to know why Penang's request was denied while other states were allowed to purchase their own vaccines.

Employers in Selangor had on Monday been given the green light to buy the Covid-19 vaccine for their workers through the state government, which has allocated some RM100 million (S$32.3 million) to help expedite the country's National Immunisation Programme.

The state executive council member in charge of public health, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, said interested employers can register to buy the vaccines through the state's SELangkah app.

Apart from the new reported cases on Tuesday, an additional 3,497 recovered patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 432,600 or 90.2 per cent of all cases.

Of 44,827 active cases, 531 are being held in intensive care and 277 of them are in need of assisted breathing.

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