KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia yesterday reported 7,289 new coronavirus infections, the country's highest daily tally yet and the first time the caseload has surged above 7,000.
The country also logged 60 Covid-19 deaths, compared with the record 61 fatalities notched on Monday.
The new infections brought the total number of cases in the South-east Asian nation to 525,889, with 2,369 fatalities, the Health Ministry said.
The spike is happening although Malaysia is into its third week of a month-long lockdown called the movement control order (MCO).
The government imposed a tighter MCO that started yesterday, forcing malls and restaurants to shut two hours earlier at 8pm. Shoppers are allowed to spend just two hours in a mall and public transport frequency has been reduced.
Eighty per cent of civil servants and 40 per cent of private sector employees have been ordered to work from home. But most factories will remain open to keep the economy humming.
Adding to the grim figures, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob said more children below the age of 12 have been infected with the coronavirus than in previous months.
There are 41,971 cases involving young children below 12, he said in a statement, including 6,290 babies below 18 months old.
He said the number of people below the age of 20 who have been infected has risen eightfold.
"To date, there are 64,046 children nationwide infected with the coronavirus, compared with 8,369 reported cases throughout 2020," he said. "Previously, it was said that the elderly were at risk of being infected with the virus. Now, it seems that the threat of this virus is contagious to children as well."
The health crisis has strained hospitals and centres built to monitor and treat Covid-19 patients.
Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were 726 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units yesterday, with 373 needing ventilators. Both are record-high figures since the country began tracking the disease in January last year.
He said that Selangor state, which surrounds capital Kuala Lumpur, once again topped the list of states with the highest number of cases at 2,642, followed by Johor at 664 cases. Kuala Lumpur had 604 cases.
In Malaysia's biggest state by land size, Sarawak, where Covid-19 cases have also been climbing since March, an average of three deaths per day have been logged this month, said acting state health director Rosemawati Ariffin. She said 74 deaths have been reported between May 1 and Monday, compared with 29 in March and 69 last month.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS