Malls and many businesses in Malaysia shuttered yesterday as the country began its second nationwide lockdown to tackle a COVID-19 outbreak.
The nation imposed a partial lockdown on May 12, banning all social activities, but allowing the economic sector to operate.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a large-scale lockdown after daily infections on Friday last week breached 8,000 and reached a record 9,020 on Saturday.
“If this drastic action is not taken immediately, it is feared that our healthcare system will collapse and we will face a bigger catastrophe,” Muhyiddin said in a national broadcast on Monday.
This will be the country’s second nationwide lockdown since the start of the pandemic and it risks derailing its economic recovery.
To help cushion the fallout from the new lockdown, Muhyiddin announced a new 40 billion ringgit (US$9.7 billion) stimulus package.
Businesses are to be closed for two weeks until June 14, except for those in 17 essential sectors, including banking, media, and food and beverage.
More than a dozen manufacturing sectors are also allowed to operate at 60 percent capacity, including the electrical, electronics, and oil and gas sectors.
The plantation, agriculture, fishery and critical construction sectors are also exempted.
Schools have already moved to online classes and inter-district travel has been banned since early last month.
Restaurants can stay open for pick-up and delivery services.
Only two in a household can travel to buy necessities within a 10km radius and three for medical reasons.
Residents can jog in their neighborhood, but no cycling is allowed.
In Kuala Lumpur, police were checking vehicles that entered the city.
About 800 roadblocks have been set up nationwide, especially near fringes of towns where compliance is low.
Although there is no curfew, nearly all businesses allowed to remain open must shut by 8pm.
Infections in Malaysia have climbed since many people breached safety rules to return to their hometowns for Eid al-Fitr.
Daily cases crossed 6,000 on May 19 for the first time and topped 9,000 within 10 days.
Malaysia’s tally has surged five-fold since last year to 572,357 infections since the pandemic began and 2,796 deaths.
Although daily infections slid to the 6,000 range since Sunday, Malaysian Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah has said that the country is “not out of the woods,” as more infectious variants are present in nearly every state.
With intensive care wards nearing maximum capacity, the Malaysian Ministry of Health has warned that doctors might eventually have to allot beds to COVID-19 patients with a better potential to recover.
The military has set up field hospitals in some areas and several government hospitals are using shipping containers to store bodies as fatality climb.
The government is ramping up its vaccination campaign by setting up mass vaccination centers, as well as allowing drive-throughs and the use of mobile trucks in some places.
Hundreds of private clinics and hospitals are also authorized to provide vaccinations, while businesses have taken the initiative to speed up inoculations for their staff.
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