Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Malaysia put under "total lockdown"

Malaysia Enters Total Lockdown as COVID-19 Surge Continues | The Diplomat - Sebastian Strangio:

June 1, 2021 - "Malaysians woke up today at the beginning of a two-week nationwide 'total lockdown,' imposed to head off a surge of coronavirus infections that threatens to overwhelm the country’s hospitals and health infrastructure. The lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on May 28, a date on which that Malaysia reported 8,290 new coronavirus cases, its fourth straight day of record infections. The country would go on to record a fifth record of more than 9,000 cases on May 29....

"During the lockdown, which will run from June 1 to 14, only essential businesses will be allowed to operate and people have been told to stay within 10 kilometers of home. Muhyiddin said that if the number of cases falls by June 14, the government will permit some sectors to reopen gradually over the course of the subsequent weeks, paving the way for the full resumption of economic activity.

"Malaysia managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic in 2020, but like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, has struggled to contain recent outbreaks that have involved more infectious variants of the virus.... The 'total lockdown' comes after a partial shutdown came into force on May 12, in part to prevent travel during the Eid holiday, but has failed to curb the escalating case numbers. Today, the government announced a further 7,105 positive COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 579,462.

"Malaysia now stands third in Southeast Asia for total coronavirus infections, behind only Indonesia and the Philippines, but on a per capita basis its infection rate is now the worst in the region. It has also seen the fourth highest death toll among Southeast Asian countries.

"The new lockdown is likely to buffet a Malaysian economy that was just recovering from the restrictions that mostly kept the virus at bay last year. The Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda today announced that they were temporarily suspending production at their factories in Malaysia. Muhyiddin had vowed not to impose more lockdowns after last year’s contributed to the country’s economy contracting by around 5.6 percent in 2020, its sharpest decline since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98....

"Malaysia’s COVID-19 surge and slow vaccine rollout are likely to increase pressure on Muhyiddin’s government, which has been criticized for its lackadaisical approach to the pandemic and the erratic nature in which it has introduced restrictions. In recent days, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng, the head of the opposition Democratic Action Party, have both attacked Muhyiddin’s centralization of power, and called on him to grant states greater leeway over specific lockdown measures and the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.... Opposition figures have also ... heavily criticized ... the state of emergency that his government introduced in January, which was declared necessary to control COVID-19, but has clearly failed to do so. Even at the time, critics were accusing Muhyiddin of using it to buy time and consolidate his own precarious political position."

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