KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's deadliest week from the coronavirus saw it hit another grim record on Saturday (May 29), breaking new highs for both infections and deaths on the same day.
The country logged 9,020 new infections and 98 deaths in the last 24 hours, far eclipsing the previous record of 8,290 infections on Friday and 63 deaths on Wednesday.
The unwanted records were reached a day after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the entire country will be placed under a two-week "total lockdown" from Tuesday as many Malaysian hospitals are running out of critical care wards for Covid-19 patients.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned on Saturday of darker days ahead should the current Covid-19 trajectory continue: new cases could jump to 13,000 a day by the middle of June, just two weeks from now.
"Help us save the national healthcare system which is about to be paralysed if the increase in cases is not controlled," he said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Tan Sri Noor Hisham on Saturday repeated his call for Malaysians to stay at home, raising his concern at the traffic volume trying to leave the Klang Valley, which consists much of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, to southern and east-coast states.
Business groups, meanwhile, have been trying to get details on whether, and how, they will be affected by the new lockdown. But the government did not release any lists on what it would constitute as "essential economic sector" that Tan Sri Muhyiddin said will be allowed to continue operating.
The government has also yet to announce a fresh financial package to aid vulnerable groups such as the poor and daily-wage labourers. The premier has said a new fiscal package will be announced.
Malaysia's biggest opposition group, the Democratic Action Party, on Saturday called on the government to introduce a comprehensive fiscal relief package to help vulnerable groups who will be adversely affected by the lockdown.
The lockdown is the third iteration of the Movement Control Order (MCO) announced by Mr Muhyiddin since the pandemic was tracked in January last year.
The third total lockdown, dubbed MCO 3.0, is expected to resemble Malaysia's first lockdown between March and May last year which saw the government providing blanket loan moratorium for six months to all Malaysians, wage subsidies for employers, and various other cash aid directed for low income individuals and families, including those who lost jobs.
The calls for a total lockdown has been circulating in Malaysia for weeks, including from Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail who called for a "targeted full lockdown", meaning shutting down smaller areas with high infections.
"For example, the southern zones of Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan can be put on 'full lockdown' for two weeks, followed by other zones such as the east coast (Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan)," he said.
States that are not on lockdown, he said, can resume economic activities.
"By doing this, we are dealing with a number of cases without affecting the country's economic activities as a whole," Sultan Ibrahim told the Johor Royal Press Office on Friday.
Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also recently called the government to implement a full lockdown. While he acknowledged that a lockdown will hurt the economy, Dr Mahathir said it was better than losing lives to Covid-19, citing poor compliance of health protocols at worksites.
The Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry on Saturday urged Malaysians not to crowd supermarkets and hypermarkets ahead of the lockdown, as the country has sufficient essential food supplies.