Coronavirus: Asia

Malaysia's infections rise to highest in six weeks

Malaysia's daily Covid-19 cases breached the 2,000 mark for the first time in more than a month as concerns grow over a new spike in infections during the Ramadan fasting month.

Malaysia yesterday reported 2,148 new infections, the highest number since March 5.

The country's new cases had shown an upward tick over the past week. Just over two weeks ago, infections dropped below the 1,000 mark for the first time this year, to 941 cases on March 29.

Malaysia's record high was logged at 5,278 daily cases on Jan 30.

The spike coincided with the beginning of the Ramadan fasting month, which began on Tuesday, as the government allowed Ramadan food bazaars to operate after banning them last year. The government is also allowing eateries to remain open until 6am daily, beyond the usual midnight shutdown, saying that Muslims need to buy food for their pre-dawn meal.

The country's Coordinating Minister for Immunisation Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday urged the National Security Council to review its relaxed Covid-19 protocols, which include permissions for the bazaars to operate.

Mr Khairy said it would be extremely tough for people to adhere to protocols such as physical distancing at the bazaars. "No matter what type of enforcement you do there, they are bound to get close to one another. So, in this situation, it is either you continue (with Ramadan bazaars) or you don't," he told reporters in Negeri Sembilan.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has reminded those visiting Ramadan bazaars to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols after pictures of crowded areas circulated on social media on Wednesday.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin told a meeting with industry representatives yesterday that the government has no intention to impose a nationwide movement control order (MCO) for a third time.

The Health Ministry's director-general, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said on Twitter that the country's rate of infectivity was at 1.14 on Wednesday.

It was at 0.89 on Feb 14.

Officials have said Malaysia must lower the infectivity rate to 0.8 to bring down daily cases to 500.

Much of Malaysia was under the MCO, Malaysia's strictest form of lockdown, for more than a month from January until late February, before the protocols were relaxed towards March.

But an interstate travel ban that has been implemented since January remains in place.

Health Minister Adham Baba said yesterday that his ministry was proposing that the interstate travel ban remains in place for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations in the middle of next month. The exodus to home towns, called balik kampung, was banned for the Hari Raya holidays last year.

Parts of Kelantan and Sarawak states are being placed under the MCO again for two weeks as cases in those states surged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia's infections rise to highest in six weeks'. Subscribe