Virus-hit Malaysia loses hosting of major regional tech conference

Malaysia flag
Malaysia flag

Virus-hit Malaysia is to lose out on staging a major tech conference, with organizers saying on Thursday they would move the annual RISE event back to Hong Kong, cancelling plans announced last year for a first-ever hosting by Kuala Lumpur.

“We always intended to come back to Hong Kong at some stage,” said Paddy Cosgrave, chief executive of RISE conference, which is scheduled to take place next March.

The reversal comes despite China recently imposing stricter controls on Hong Kong and local tech companies – and despite Malaysia’s Health Ministry saying on Thursday that more than 65 per cent of adults have been double-jabbed against Covid-19.

However, Malaysia’s coronavirus case numbers remain high despite the shots and after almost four months of tight local restrictions.

The country, usually a tourism magnet, has also kept its borders shut to travellers since March 2020, even keeping out returning nationals for a time. The measure saw the number of foreign workers plummet.

The ministry reported some 21,000 new cases on Thursday, in country with a population of almost 33 million.

The spike is more than five times the number recorded when a third pandemic lockdown was imposed in May. It is by far the highest number per capita in South-East Asia, according to official figures put together by the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data.

The ministry reported 249 virus-linked deaths on Thursday, taking the total to more than 17,000.

The government said recently that moving forward, it aims to base restrictions on the numbers of people who are ill or hospitalized after contracting the virus.

Health Ministry Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Thursday that hospital intensive care units were 90 per cent full. He added that around 98 per cent of new cases were showing either mild symptoms of illness or none at all.

In an attempt to drive up testing numbers to bring about a reopening of the country’s economy as the virus becomes “endemic,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Thursday that rapid antigen kits would be made more widely available by using “bulk purchases” to push prices down.

Virus curbs have reduced output in Malaysia’s electronics and computer factories and led in turn to chip shortages as far afield as Germany, where Volkswagen and Ford have recently warned of related car production shortages.

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