PM Muhyiddin says Covid-19 cases will rise in Malaysia but no lockdown for now

New Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have been above 200 a day since Oct 1. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that he expects a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country in the short term as a record 691 new cases were reported on Tuesday (Oct 6).

It was the second consecutive day of a record high number, after 432 cases were confirmed on Monday.

Four new deaths were reported on Tuesday, including that of a one-year-old, the country's first child fatality.

But Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the country would not implement a movement control order (MCO) again as it could badly affect the economy, with 15 million Malaysians at work. The government will instead carry out targeted lockdowns, or Temco, on red zones, which are areas with 41 cases or more.

Malaysia has nine red zones currently, including seven in Sabah, one in Kedah and one in Klang, Selangor.

"We cannot be complacent. I expect the number of Covid-19 cases to rise in the short term. This is because the Health Ministry is testing more aggressively," the Prime Minister said in a live telecast on national television and social media.

"As of today, we are not thinking of implementing a nationwide movement control order (MCO) or a total lockdown. If we implement an MCO again, this could lead to the collapse of the social and economic systems of the country."

Malaysia implemented a lockdown from March 18, closing its borders, businesses, and schools, but has gradually reopened most sectors from May. Borders remain closed except for returning citizens and for exceptional cases.

Mr Muhyiddin sought to reassure Malaysians that the country was "now better prepared than before in terms of experience and manpower". He said: "We know the behaviour of the virus better and we have enough facilities and equipment."

The Health Ministry's director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said that beds had been prepared for Covid-19 patients, with 2,820 in hospitals and 3,975 in quarantine centres. At present, 36 per cent and 29 per cent of these are being used, respectively, he said on Tuesday.

There are 1,505 ventilators available, with some 37 per cent being used, including for non-Covid patients.

Tan Sri Noor Hisham said Malaysia has 60 laboratories nationwide conducting real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction tests, and is capable of carrying out 41,354 of these tests a day.

PM Muhyiddin also insisted there were "no double standards" in quarantine orders and that seven ministers and six deputy ministers were undergoing home quarantine.

Mr Muhyiddin and Dr Noor Hisham are themselves currently in quarantine after a ministerial meeting where de facto Islamic Affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, who tested positive for the virus, was in attendance.

Ninety of Datuk Seri Zulkifli's close contacts have so far tested negative for the disease.

Anger among Malaysians has been mounting over the new Covid-19 wave which they feel was spurred by politics, with reports of ministers failing to quarantine themselves after their return from Sabah for campaigning in the Sept 26 state election.

Photos of banners with swear words blaming politicians for the escalating numbers have been floating on social media.

Mr Muhyiddin defended the decision to hold the Sabah state poll but conceded that it contributed to the growing outbreak as not everyone followed the safety measures during campaigning.

The government on Tuesday announced a travel ban from Sabah to other states between Oct 12 and 25 as infections in the state continued to rise. Sabah recorded 219 cases.

Another state, Kedah, recorded higher daily cases than Sabah on Tuesday due to a Covid-19 outbreak at a prison. Kedah reported 397 cases.

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