The South-east Asian nation’s economy was on the path to recovery before infections began to spike, with case numbers reaching over 545,000 and hospitals struggling to cope, and now the country has a strict two-week economic shutdown to get through
Malaysia’s recovery charge came to a crashing halt on Friday with news of a nationwide “total lockdown” as coronavirus infections in the country surged to record levels.
The South-east Asian nation’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the stricter lockdown from June 1 to 14 was for all social and economic areas, and that only essential services and economic sectors would remain in operation.
Malaysia’s economy was on the path to recovery in the first quarter before infections began to spike again. It fell 5.6% in 2020, its worst annual performance since the Asian financial crisis, but the central bank had projected growth of 6%-7.5% this year.
The Covid-19 spread in the nation in recent weeks has been more severe, partly due to highly transmissible coronavirus variants and its hospitals are feeling the pressure.
“With the latest rise in daily cases showing a drastically upward trend, hospital capacity across the country to treat Covid-19 patients are becoming limited,” Muhyiddin said in a statement.
Malaysia reported 8,290 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its fourth straight day of record infections, bringing its total to 549,514. The number of daily fatalities has also reached records, with 63 earlier this week. It reported 61 deaths on Friday, taking the total to 2,552.
Malaysia has started its Covid-19 inoculation drive, though critics say the rollout has been slow. About 1.7 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Thursday.
Given the full closure of the economy, the finance ministry said it will announce a relief package for individuals and economic sectors soon, Muhyiddin said.
If Malaysia can reduce the number of cases in the first two weeks of the lockdown, the government will allow some sectors to reopen slowly over the course of next four weeks – after which all economic sectors would be allowed to operate, he said.
Malaysia has already rolled out over 300 billion ringgit ($72.60 billion) of stimulus packages since last year to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
It is also under a state of emergency since January to curb the spread of the virus, suspending parliament and essentially putting an end to political activities amid a power struggle.
- Reporting by Reuters