KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has declared a national emergency to battle the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed as many people in the past two months as in the first 10 months of 2020.
The Palace said on Tuesday (Jan 12) that King Abdullah Ahmad Shah has assented to the government's request for an emergency order that will be effective up to Aug 1, or earlier should Covid-19 cases come under control.
"Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the view that the spread of Covid-19 in the country is at a very critical stage and there is need to decree an Emergency Proclamation," the royal comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a press statement.
This confirms The Straits Times' report on Monday that the Cabinet had met to revive the emergency proposal that had initially been rejected by the King in October.
The situation in the country has since changed.
Noting that beds and intensive care slots at hospitals for Covid-19 patients were nearly full, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang approved the emergency powers for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's administration as a "proactive move to control and flatten daily Covid-19 positive cases that have breached four figures continuously since December".
The statement also said the government will form a bipartisan independent committee of MPs and health experts, which will recommend if an early termination of the emergency is possible.
Datuk Fadil added that the King was concerned over the effects of nationwide flooding in recent days and the rising coronavirus infections, "which if not contained and controlled effectively, will harm public health and the well-being of the nation".
Malaysia has recorded more than 2,000 new cases daily for the past week, leaving the healthcare system on the brink of collapse.
On Tuesday, it reported a record 3,309 new infections.
This leaves only about 100 beds reserved for Covid-19 patients vacant at hospitals and quarantine centres.
The country has reported 559 Covid-19 deaths so far - doubling the death toll since Nov 5.
In October last year, the Muhyiddin administration requested emergency powers to ensure efforts against Covid-19 would not be jeopardised by an increasingly unstable political atmosphere that saw Umno, the largest ruling party, threatening to pull support for the government and its budget for 2021.
However, Sultan Abdullah rejected the bid, saying there was no need at the time. Instead, he called on politicians across the divide to unite against the deadly virus and the economic fallout resulting from curbs that have hindered normal commerce.
Although Budget 2021 was narrowly passed last month, uncertainty has spiked again after three-quarters of Umno divisions passed resolutions two weekends ago to cut ties with Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Two Umno MPs, Kelantan Umno chief Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub and Padang Rengas representative Nazri Aziz, declared on Saturday and Tuesday respectively they no longer support Perikatan Nasional (PN), leaving the ruling pact with just 109 MPs, less than half the 220-strong Parliament.
But an emergency would allow the government to suspend Parliament, make rules unilaterally and approve any expenditure deemed necessary to ensure public security.
In October, the proposal for emergency powers widespread criticism and already, former premier Najib Razak said Monday that reviving the proposal would be based on politics rather than to fight Covid-19, as the Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed from March to April last year was successful in curbing the transmission of the disease.
Mr Muhyiddin announced on Monday evening that five states and all three federal territories would return to the MCO, which bars all non-essential activity and inter-district travel.