Malaysia's health ministry advises against easing curbs amid record-high Covid-19 cases

Police officers check riders at a road block during an enhanced lockdown in Kuala Lumpur on July 3, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Malaysia's health ministry has cautioned the government not to hastily relax Covid-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated people, as the country reported 20,889 new cases on Friday (Aug 6), its third consecutive record.

The deputy health director-general, Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim, said some countries have reimposed restrictions after a rise in infections following their decision to relax rules on social distancing and wearing of face masks.

"We saw how countries like the United Kingdom and Israel which had opened up early are now seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases. We need to learn from their lessons and not remove restrictions hastily," he said.

"What we need now is to vaccinate more people and there must be strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols."

This includes being vigilant by practising social distancing, refraining from having or attending large gatherings and wearing face masks, said Datuk Hishamshah.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will announce the relaxation of protocols for fully vaccinated individuals in the next two days even as the country continues to chart record-high infections, fuelled by the more contagious Delta variant.

The easing of rules may include allowing dining in, sports, as well as inter-district and interstate travel.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin will also chair a special session of the National Security Council on Monday, when they will look at refining the Covid-19 measures that have failed to rein in infections and deaths despite placing the country on a lockdown since June 1.

"We will look into details as to why this (increase) is happening. We will evaluate if the measures taken are no longer effective... and should we need to improve screening and testing and conduct more contact tracing," he was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.

Malaysia's record 20,889 infections on Friday brought the total tally to 1,224,595. It also reported 160 deaths, bringing the death toll to 10,179.

The health ministry said on average, about 80 per cent of victims who were brought in dead to hospitals had never been tested for Covid-19.

Among the latest deaths was opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan youth chief Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin. He wrote on his Twitter account on July 19 that he had Covid-19 after suffering from fever, headache and pain throughout his body.

His death comes as the government is focusing on speeding up its vaccination drive.

About 34 per cent of the adult population has received both doses of the vaccine and nearly 65 per cent has taken at least one dose as at Aug 5, according to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply.

Malaysia expects to reach the peak of its record-breaking Covid-19 cases this month before the impact of the mass vaccination programme starts to show.

Mr Muhyiddin has said that much of the country could reopen for full economic activity by October.

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