KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia authorities warned of a new wave of COVID-19 after 260 new infections were reported on Thursday (Oct 1), the biggest daily spike since the pandemic began.
The sharp increase in infections comes after a surge in travel to and from Sabah for the state elections. The national tally now stands at 11,484 cases with a total of 136 deaths.
All but one of the new cases reported on Thursday were local infections.
The local transmissions involved 130 Malaysians and 120 foreigners while the sole imported case travelled from the United Kingdom and is currently in Kuala Lumpur, said health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Malaysia previously reported 277 new infections on Jun 4. Only four of these cases were locally transmitted while a majority of the remaining cases were detected among foreigners from the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Depot.
The third-highest number of cases recorded was on Mar 26, which was during the first phase of the movement control order. The 235 cases comprised 27 imported cases and 208 local transmissions.
"BEGINNING OF A NEW WAVE"
Dr Noor Hisham said the increase in cases could be seen as "the beginning of a new wave" and urged the public to continue practicing social distancing and avoid leaving their homes unless necessary.
"It is up to us now to flatten the curve. We have done it before and we can do it again," he told a news conference.
“Of the 259 cases, 31 involved those with a history of travelling to Sabah. This takes the cumulative number of cases involving travels to Sabah to 119 since Sep 20."
In detailing the breakdown of the locally transmitted cases, Dr Noor Hisham said Sabah continued to record the highest number with 118. This was followed by Kedah with 98 cases as well as Selangor and Kuala Lumpur with 13 cases each.
The other cases were detected in Johor, Putrajaya, Terengganu, Perlis, Melaka, Pahang and Penang.
The recent rise in cases has prompted criticism of the government after at least two politicians tested positive for the virus while campaigning in Sabah.
Cases linked to travel to the state have been reported in all 13 Malaysian states this week.
600 school students in the west Malaysian state of Penang were ordered to undergo testing after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning from accompanying her husband, a politician, on the Sabah campaign trail, local media reported.
Dr Noor Hisham said that the implementation of the inter-district travel restriction throughout Sabah from Oct 3 to Oct 16 as well as the targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO) in four districts would help control the COVID-19 situation there.
“At the same time, the Ministry of Health and other related agencies will make every effort to control the spread of COVID-19 nationwide. The cooperation of all parties is very much needed,” he said.
Four new COVID-19 clusters were also identified. They are the Jalan Meru Cluster in Selangor, Joo Hwa Cluster in Sabah, Selasih Cluster in Putrajaya and Bah Ketil Cluster in Kedah.
SARAWAK ANNOUNCES STRICTER TRAVEL MEASURES
In view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Sabah and peninsula Malaysia, Sarawak authorities on Thursday announced plans to impose stricter travel measures.
The Sarawak government said it will prohibit Malaysians and non-citizens in Sabah and the federal territory of Labuan from entering the state between Oct 4 and 18.
Only Sarawakians in Sabah and Labuan will be allowed to return to the state during that period, provided that they complete an online application and health declaration. They will also have to undergo a 14-day quarantine and take a COVID-19 test.