Malaysia expands lockdown measures to most states as virus spreads

People wait to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia on Tuesday said it would extend lockdown restrictions across most of the country as it grappled with a rise in coronavirus infections.

Last week, capital Kuala Lumpur and six states went into a two-week lockdown. Essential sectors including manufacturing, plantations and construction were allowed to stay open, but a nationwide travel ban was implemented.

Security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday said the lockdown will also be imposed on six other states from Friday for two weeks. Only the eastern state of Sarawak will not see a full lockdown, though some restrictions are in place.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said the lockdown measures were necessary as the healthcare system was at a breaking point.

The Southeast Asian country is also under emergency rule, which was imposed to deal with the pandemic, though the political opposition has said it is a move by Muhyiddin to cling to power amid a leadership challenge.

The total number of coronavirus infections in Malaysia stood at 165,371, including 619 deaths.

Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Steve Orlofsky