Malaysia will not re-impose COVID-19 curbs for now despite spike

Malaysia will not re-impose COVID-19 curbs for now despite spike

People wearing protective face masks wait to cross a street during a rain fall, in Kuala Lumpur
People wearing protective masks wait to cross a street during a rain fall, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not re-impose widespread novel coronavirus restrictions on travel despite a recent spike in infections, which a government minister said was partly caused by migrants from neighbouring countries.

Malaysia imposed a nationwide lockdown in March but has been gradually lifting the curbs, though authorities have warned that they could be reinstated if daily increases in infections reached triple-digits.

The Southeast Asian country has seen a steady climb in cases in the past week and on Saturday reported 317 new infections, the highest daily rise since it began tracking the pandemic. Authorities also reported one new death.

READ: Malaysia reports 317 new COVID-19 cases, highest daily rise

But security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government did not see the need to reimpose the lockdown as the majority of cases were being reported in detention centres and isolated districts.

"There's only one or two cases in each state so it's not something that's worrying at this point," Ismail told reporters.

The government has come under criticism for the increase in cases, many of which have been in or linked to the second-largest state of Sabah, on Borneo island, which held an election last week.

Several politicians have been accused of violating social distancing protocols on the campaign trail, while authorities were criticised for not imposing control measures such as a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers from Sabah.

Ismail said the Sabah outbreak stemmed from the illegal entry of migrants. The government would increase resources and personnel to guard the state's borders, he said.

"The cases in neighbouring countries have gone up and the entry of illegal migrants from there have impacted on our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19," he said.

READ: Malaysia's Health Ministry looking into fully reopening border with Singapore

READ: Malaysia in no hurry to open its borders, says PM Muhyiddin

Malaysia has avoided the level of outbreaks seen in neighbours the Philippines and Indonesia, which have 319,330 and 299,506 cases respectively.

Malaysia has reported a total of 12,088 infections, with 137 deaths.

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Source: Reuters/ga