Coronavirus: Hot spots

Malaysia's daily Covid-19 cases soar to new high as politicians face backlash

Malaysia's Ministry of Health staff attaching pink bracelets to passengers from Sabah upon arrival, as part of mandatory Covid-19 screenings, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday. PHOTO: BERNAMA
Malaysia's Ministry of Health staff attaching pink bracelets to passengers from Sabah upon arrival, as part of mandatory Covid-19 screenings, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysia recorded yesterday its highest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases since the outbreak began, as the country's politicians were lambasted online for failing to practise social distancing when campaigning in Sabah's recent state election.

Netizens also criticised them for failing to self-quarantine when they returned to peninsular Malaysia.

The Health Ministry said Malaysia recorded 287 cases yesterday, eclipsing the 277 cases reported on June 4. "This is what we have been worried about; this is keeping up with the trend we are seeing of Covid-19 cases experiencing a spike all over the world," the ministry's director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a news conference.

The new peak seems closely linked with the movement of thousands of individuals returning from the hotly contested Sabah election held on Sept 26. Many Sabahans, who work in peninsular Malaysia, had gone home to vote.

Several politicians who had visited and campaigned in Sabah have already tested positive for the virus.

In the past week, Malaysia had consistently registered three-digit daily cases. And since polling day, the authorities have announced measures to curb the surge in infections, beginning with mandatory Covid-19 screenings for all who returned from Sabah since Sunday.

Sabah will also face a 14-day movement control order that bans travel among the 27 districts after midnight tonight. Only essential services and travel are allowed.

A targeted lockdown had been introduced earlier this week in four virus hot-spot districts in the east coast of Sabah.

Yesterday, #klustermenteri (ministers' cluster) trended on Twitter following reports of Cabinet ministers and senior politicians not practising self-quarantine on return from Sabah.

Among those who received flak was Mr Azman Nasrudin, a state executive councillor in Kedah who is a member of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Bersatu party, who tested positive. He did not self-quarantine before his positive result.

His wife, a school teacher, also tested positive, causing her entire school to undergo swab tests.

The Higher Education Ministry also came under fire after it asked all first-year university students in Malaysia to delay registering in person because of the spike.

 
 
 

The undergraduates got the instruction after they had paid for their accommodation.

"Love how I've packed and packed, ready to finally start my long-awaited degree, just for me to unpack everything back. Also lost RM400 of my parents' hostel payment. Thanks, ministers," Twitter user Lydia Chai posted.

Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the chief of Barisan Nasional (BN) - the biggest faction in the ruling federal government - apologised for the spike and admitted it was directly caused by the Sabah polls.

Cases in Sabah began to spike early last month and by polling day the state had recorded 85 per cent of all cases in Malaysia over a two-week period.

While Sabah remains a hot spot with 113 cases yesterday, a new cluster has emerged in Kedah, with 129 cases.

Meanwhile, the spike in cases has dampened talk of a possible snap election in Malaysia that Tan Sri Muhyiddin had alluded to earlier. BN secretary general Annuar Musa yesterday said an election should not be held in the near future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysia's daily Covid-19 cases soar to new high as politicians face backlash'. Subscribe