Spike in Covid-19 infections, but Malaysia won't reimpose restrictions

Malaysia has seen a steady climb in cases in the past week. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will not reimpose widespread coronavirus restrictions on travel despite a recent spike in infections, which a government minister said was partly caused by migrants from neighbouring countries.

Malaysia imposed a nationwide movement curb in March but has been gradually lifting the restrictions, though the authorities have warned that they could be reinstated if daily increases in infections reached triple digits.

The South-east Asian country has seen a steady climb in cases in the past week and yesterday reported 317 new infections, the highest daily rise since it began tracking the pandemic.

But Security Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government did not see the need to reimpose the lockdown as the majority of cases were being reported in detention centres and isolated districts.

"There's only one or two cases in each state so it's not something that's worrying at this point," he told reporters.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also said yesterday that the country is committed to contain the spread of the virus as soon as possible. He assured the public that the situation is still under control and that it is being managed well by the relevant government agencies.

The government has come under criticism for the increase in cases, many of which have been in or linked to the second-largest state of Sabah, on Borneo island, which held an election last month.

Several politicians have been accused of violating social distancing protocols on the campaign trail, while the authorities were criticised for not imposing control measures such as a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers from Sabah.

Datuk Seri Ismail said the Sabah outbreak stemmed from the illegal entry of migrants. The government would increase resources and personnel to guard the state's borders, he said.

"The cases in neighbouring countries have gone up and the entry of illegal migrants from there has impacted our efforts to control the spread of Covid-19."

Malaysia has avoided the level of outbreaks seen in neighbours the Philippines and Indonesia, which have 319,330 and 299,506 cases respectively. To date, Malaysia has reported a total of 12,088 infections, with 137 deaths.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2020, with the headline Spike in Covid-19 infections, but Malaysia won't reimpose restrictions. Subscribe