Malaysia is battling a rapidly growing coronavirus outbreak that has strained the country’s healthcare system.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has announced a “total blockade” across the country as of June, as coronavirus infections in the country have reached record levels.
Muhyiddin said the strictest closure from June 1 to 14 was for all social and economic areas and that only essential economic services and sectors would remain in operation, which would be listed by the national security council.
Officials believe more contagious variants have contributed to the rise, in addition to meetings in the Muslim-majority country during the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday earlier this month.
“With the latest increase in daily cases showing a drastically upward trend, hospital capacity across the country to treat patients with COVID-19 is being limited,” Muhyiddin said in a statement Friday.
Malaysia reported 8,290 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, its fourth consecutive day of record infections, for a total of 549,514. The number of daily fatalities has also reached records, with 63 earlier this week.
Friday reported 61 deaths, reaching 2,552.
Although moderate by global standards, the outbreak has increased rapidly in recent weeks and the number of patients in intensive care and ventilators has reached all-time highs.
Malaysia has started its COVID-19 inoculation unit, although critics say the launch has been slow. Approximately 1.7 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine as of Thursday.
Given the total closure of the economy, the finance ministry will soon announce a package of aid for individuals and economic sectors, Muhyiddin said.
If Malaysia can reduce the number of cases in the first two weeks of closure, the government will allow some sectors to slowly reopen over the next four weeks, after which it would be allowed to operate in all economic sectors, he said.
Malaysia has already launched more than 300 billion ringgit ($ 72.6 billion) of stimulus packages since last year to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the economy.
It has also been in a state of emergency since January to curb the spread of the virus, suspend parliament and put an end essentially to political activities amid a power struggle.
Malaysia’s economy was on the road to recovery in the first quarter before infections began to rise.
It fell 5.6 percent in 2020, that is worst annual performance since the Asian financial crisis, but the central bank had projected 6-7.5% growth this year.