KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian health authorities have raised concerns about a growing number of coronavirus deaths and serious cases involving children, after a surge in overall infections forced the South-east Asian nation into a strict lockdown.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin declared a two-week "total lockdown" from June 1 to 14, as daily Covid-19 cases and deaths hit record numbers, with the government warning the outbreak may be linked to more contagious variants.
Malaysia recorded the deaths of three children aged below five due to the coronavirus in the first five months of this year, the same number recorded over the whole of 2020, according to Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.
A total of 27 children, including 19 below the age of five, also had to be treated in intensive care between January and May after contracting the virus, up from eight cases last year.
"The Health Ministry hopes all parties, especially parents and guardians, play an important part in protecting those with low immunity, such as babies and children, from Covid-19," Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement.
Dr Noor Hisham did not say how many children had been tested for Covid-19 or if the authorities planned to ramp up testing among minors. Neighbouring Singapore also warned last month that new coronavirus variants, such as the one first detected in India, were affecting more children.
Earlier this week, Malaysian Health Minister Adham Baba said a total of 82,341 children had been infected with the coronavirus between January last year and May 30 this year.
Malaysia reported 7,748 new coronavirus cases yesterday, taking the nation's total caseload to 603,122. It has also logged 3,096 deaths, the third-highest total in the region behind Indonesia and the Philippines. It saw a record daily rise in cases of 9,020 last Saturday, and its highest daily death toll of 126 on Wednesday.
The health minister said on Thursday it was "not something impossible" for total Covid-19 deaths to hit 26,000 by September, as projected by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Still, Dr Adham said Malaysia has ordered enough vaccines to cover 109 per cent of its population who qualify for inoculation, with the aim of achieving herd immunity against the virus by December. With steady and fast deliveries of all three approved vaccines - Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca - starting this month, the nation would be able to inoculate 80 per cent of its population by December, he said.
Dr Adham said that Malaysia's vaccine supply is expected to increase, with more deliveries in this month and the next.
In a boost to the vaccine stocks, the Malaysian health authorities said yesterday conditional approval had been granted for AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by Siam Bioscience in Thailand.
Malaysia has dispensed 3.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine since its mass vaccination programme started in late February.
REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK