Malaysia decides against lockdown despite surge in COVID-19 cases

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | mon, May 24, 2021

Despite daily COVID-19 cases reaching over 6,000 this week, Malaysia decided against a nationwide lockdown on Saturday. Other steps will be introduced, including reduced business hours and requiring millions of people to work from home, according to Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who coordinates the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

On Saturday, Malaysia reported 6,320 new cases in the previous 24 hours, with 50 fatalities, marking the fourth day in a row that daily cases in the country of 32 million people surpassed 6,000. The outbreak has sparked calls for a complete lockout, similar to the one enacted in March of last year when coronavirus infections reached 100 cases. Industry groups, however, who met with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday opposed a full lockout, citing economic concerns.

Ismail said the government decided against a complete lockdown during a joint press conference with Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah on Saturday “We want to strike a balance between public health and people’s livelihoods. The country’s economy lost 2.4 billion ringgit ($580 million) a day during the first lockout.

” Last year, 800,000 people lost their jobs, according to him. Malls, restaurants, and bazaars will be able to open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting next Tuesday, rather than the existing 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Public transportation will have to cut its capacity in half, and 80 percent of civil servants and 40% of private-sector employees will have to operate from home.

While a complete lockdown has been avoided, Hisham urged the public to practice self-lockdowns for at least two weeks to give the health care sector breathing space to stockpile equipment and medicine. “We need to break the chain so that hospitals can accommodate more patients that are expected in the coming days,” he said.

He emphasized that intensive care units across the country have reached over 90% capacity, with ICU capacity in Kuala Lumpur and its environs reaching 113 percent, forcing hospitals to turn other wards into ICUs. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country has logged 505,115 cases and 2,199 deaths.

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