KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian health authorities reported 871 new coronavirus cases on Sunday (Oct 18), a record daily count, raising the country's total infections to 20,498.
It also recorded seven new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 187.
Malaysia had imposed targeted lockdowns last week as infections surged in Sabah as well as Selangor, where the capital Kuala Lumpur is located.
Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said 702 of the new cases were detected in Sabah, followed by 72 cases in Selangor, 45 in Penang, and 10 in Perak.
The remaining cases were recorded in Kuala Lumpur, Kedah and Labuan.
Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham told reporters the infection rate or R-naught had dropped from 2.2 to 1.5 since a third wave of infections in the country began four weeks ago.
The R, or reproduction number, is the rate of infectivity and estimates the average number of people that one positive Covid-19 patient can infect.
"The R0 value on Sept 20 was 2.2 but in four weeks, it went down to between 1.3 and 1.5. It can be estimated that daily cases will still increase but it won't be drastic," he said.
"We expect this third wave of infections to be more challenging. Although we are more prepared in terms of medical equipment, manpower and others, what is important is that we need to control (the spread) so that the infections in the community can be reduced," he added.
He warned that even if the R0 value stayed at 2.2, the number of infections could be more than 1,000 a day.
"If we don't do anything, cases will keep increasing. Possibly to 1,000 (per day) to 3,000. If this continues to Oct 31, we might even see up to 5,000 cases."