KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia reported 2,985 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday (Jan 13), as renewed movement restrictions took effect across the country.
A third of the cases were from the Klang Valley area, comprising Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which had 1,126 new infections. Johor and Sabah accounted for 535 and 450 cases respectively.
Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were a total of four more fatalities from Sabah and Johor.
The youngest victim was a 19-year-old foreign woman. She had a medical history of anaemia and had been taken to Hospital Papar in Sabah after her death.
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Dr Noor Hisham added that 197 patients remain in the intensive care unit with 79 requiring respiratory support.
Eleven new clusters were also identified, taking the total number of active clusters in Malaysia to 270.
Under the renewed movement control order (MCO), those in the states of Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Sabah, as well as the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan are prohibited from travelling between districts.
Interstate travel is also currently banned across the country until Jan 26.
Dr Noor Hisham said "a more drastic approach" in the form of the MCO had to be taken as the country struggles to contain infections. He expects COVID-19 cases to "drop to around 500 to 1,000 cases a day in four weeks" following its implementation.
"After (the MCO ends), we will implement Conditional Movement Control Order and we are expecting to flatten the curve in May or June," he added.
If the authorities do not move to curb the spread of COVID-19 now, the health ministry is "projecting the daily new cases to surpass 5,000 by April ... and 8,000 by the end of May", Dr Noor Hisham said.
The Malaysian Inspector-General of Police on Tuesday said that those who are stranded in their hometowns with valid reasons after the MCO comes into force will be allowed to make interstate travel in order to return home this week.
He said the police understand that many people might have gone out of town to visit family members or for vacation and could not return before the movement curbs took effect.
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“A directive has been issued to personnel on the ground to use their utmost discretion to allow those who are stranded to return to their homes.
"I have issued reminders and advice that the public be given (interstate) passage, including those travelling in public vehicles, maybe until Friday,” he said.
Malaysia has reported four-digit daily increases in COVID-19 cases for about a month as it struggles to contain its third wave of infections.
As of Wednesday, Malaysia has reported a total of 144,518 COVID-19 cases, of which 32,377 are currently classified as infectious. There have also been a total of 563 deaths.