Malaysia reports highest daily Covid-19 cases of 6,806, as Mahathir urges country to be 'serious'

Malaysia saw the second straight day of record infections on Thursday, amid a fresh surge in Covid-19 infections. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - Malaysia on Thursday (May 20) recorded 6,806 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily jump in infections, the health ministry said on Twitter.

It was the second straight day of record infections after 6,075 new cases were logged on Wednesday.

The surge in Covid-19 cases may lead Malaysia to further tighten movements.

According to the Sinar Harian newspaper, minister in the Prime Minister's department Takiyuddin Hassan said moves to impose a total movement control order (MCO) nationwide will be discussed at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Friday.

He said the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and state chief ministers are expected to attend the NSC meeting.

"That's the only option available," Mr Takiyuddin said about a nationwide MCO.

"All this time, we have imposed the MCO, the conditional MCO, and the rest - whether as a whole or in a targeted approach."

He added that the government is trying their best to raise awareness in the community to participate in the vaccination programme.

The mounting cases have prompted former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to call on the country to "swallow the bitter pill" and abide by movement control measures.

The 95-year-old said the startling spike in Covid-19 figures must be stemmed immediately, and the government must ensure that people are able to survive this difficult period.

Malaysians must be confined to their homes for a period of time to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission but food must be provided to those without any income, he added.

"It is right to reintroduce the movement control order (MCO). But now we are much less strict in doing so," Dr Mahathir said in a blog post on Thursday.

"We need to confine people to their homes. There should not be any excuse for crowds to form. Staying apart must be applied even among the front-liners."

Dr Mahathir also called on the government to care for the vulnerable in Malaysia who may be encountering financial difficulties on top of a lack of access to food.

"Confining people at home means they will have no money and no food. The government must accept the responsibility of keeping people alive," he said.

"For food there should be public kitchens where food is prepared, packaged and delivered to homes."

"The police and the military should be very strict in ensuring the people don't come out to shop or do anything."

He admitted that it would be a costly endeavour, but the costs must be borne by the government.

The Langkawi Member of Parliament also said that the country must be "serious" about the fight against Covid-19, or else more lives will be lost to the pandemic.

"Whatever may be the cause of the present flare-up of the pandemic, what must be accepted is that dealing with it, attempting to reduce the number of new cases will cost a lot of money," he said.

He noted that although Malaysia was able to bring down new infections in the first round of MCO last year, the country still has not learnt from its success.

"When we first experienced the attack (of the virus), the whole country had to accept total movement control. There were no cars on the streets and no pedestrians," he said.

"After one month we congratulated ourselves on the success of the measure.

"We became overconfident. We believed we knew how to manage the pandemic. And we held elections in Sabah.

"We did not learn anything. The month of Ramadan is the month of bazaars. Everybody enjoys the bazaars. Certainly many regard the bazaars as a means to make extra income."

The Malaysian government did not want to be unpopular by banning bazaars, says Dr Mahathir. PHOTO: REUTERS

The government, he added, did not want to be unpopular by banning the bazaars, but when new cases shot up to more than 4,000 a day, the bazaars were suddenly banned.

"It was a good example of flip-flopping that the people cannot accept. The hawkers had bought the ingredients for their products for the whole month. Now they would lose money as there was no way for them to recover their capital," he said.

Dr Mahathir said the vaccination programme must also be sped up, and that whatever vaccines are being used extensively in other countries must be accepted.

"A special effort must be made to get kampung people (villagers) to be vaccinated," he said.

"The government claims it has spent more than RM600 billion (S$193 billion) in the fight against the pandemic. If so, we should have the capacity to deal with the pandemic.

"But obviously we have not. We must know why. RM600 billion is a lot of money. It is not easy to spend that amount in such a short space of time."

PM Muhyiddin previously stated that the Perikatan Nasional government had allocated more than RM600 billion in economic stimulus packages and this year's budget to battle Covid-19 and revitalise the economy.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.