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Coronavirus

Malaysia declares total lockdown to stop COVID-19 surge

Economy to shut down for two weeks, except for essential services

A virtually deserted street in Kuala Lumpur on May 11: The Malaysian government has announced even tighter restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia will enter a nationwide lockdown from June 1 to halt rising COVID-19 infections in the country, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Friday.

All areas of economic and social activity will be shut down for two weeks, apart from a few essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants, according to a statement from Muhyiddin's office

If new COVID-19 cases decline, the lockdown could be eased after the initial 14 days to second and third phases of controlled movement.

Malaysia was already under an official state of emergency, declared in January, as well as a movement control order issued on May 10. But when Muhyiddin announced that near-lockdown, he made a point of saying all economic sectors would remain open, though the government banned social gatherings, dining in restaurants and movement across state lines.

The Southeast Asian country is facing the third wave of a coronavirus spread that has pushed its health care system to the brink of collapse. Almost 550,000 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic, of which 72,823 are active cases. About 2,552 deaths have been blamed on the virus.

"With the increase of daily cases showing an upward trend recently, hospital capacity throughout the country is also increasingly limited," Muhyiddin's office said in a statement.

Health experts are predicting the number of deaths to continue to rise with the spread of the virus, particularly the more dangerous African and Indian variants.

With the economy shrinking 5.6% in 2020 and 0.5% in the first quarter of this year, Muhyiddin's government is also fighting a fiscal deficit that is estimated to hit 6% of gross domestic product this year. This deficit has been driven by over 340 billion ringgit ($82 billion) dished out in economic stimulus packages to soften the pandemic's impact since March 2020.

The government will provide more financial assistance for the people affected by the latest economic shutdown, the statement read.

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