Malaysia reverses course and imposes third virus lockdown


Malaysia’s government is imposing a third nationwide pandemic lockdown in spite of vows to not issue another Movement Control Order, as the measures are officially known.

“With daily cases exceeding 4,000 and active cases at 37,396 as well as 1,700 deaths reported as of May 10, Malaysia is facing a third Covid-19 wave that could trigger a national crisis,” Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday evening, announcing that the curbs will run from Wednesday until June 7.

Malaysia is again reporting South-East Asia’s highest daily virus case numbers per capita, as it was in January when a second lockdown was imposed and a state of emergency declared.

The volte-face comes after ministers said over the weekend that a third nationwide lockdown would not be imposed, due to fears about the impact on the economy.

Gross domestic product shrank by around 17 per cent during the second quarter of 2020, which coincided with a first lockdown, and another smaller contraction is expected when first-quarter 2021 GDP estimates are announced by the government this week.

Regional lockdowns started late last week in the biggest city Kuala Lumpur and in nearby Selangor, an industrial region, before a ban on travel between Malaysia’s states was beefed up by police roadblocks erected ahead of this week’s annual holiday to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Celebrations are completely prohibited. This includes visiting friends and relatives, and graveyard visits,” Muhyiddin said.

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