Health News

Malaysia reports record jump in COVID-19 cases amid fears of new lockdown

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysia reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases on Thursday as the government considered imposing restrictions in some areas, while businesses warned that another nationwide lockdown would further batter the economy.

Medical worker collects a swab sample from a woman to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shah Alam, Malaysia January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

A jump in infections has spooked investors, with the Kuala Lumpur stock index falling as much as 1.2% on Thursday, a day after authorities said the rise in cases was straining the health system.

The government was considering targeted lockdowns in parts of the country in response, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah had said on Wednesday.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers said that it supported a partial lockdown but that wider restrictions could cripple businesses already impacted by the pandemic.

“Should a second total lockdown be instituted, there is grave fear over the collapse of the business sectors and economy given that the several major states are the hub and heart of the country’s economic activities,” the group’s president Soh Thian Lai said in a statement.

A lockdown of four weeks or more would reduce business sustainability to one to three months, Soh said.

Malaysia has gradually loosened restrictions since last May, two months after it first closed its borders and began a strict nationwide lockdown.

It began reimposing some curbs after cases started to spike in September. On Thursday the health ministry reported a record 3,027 new infections, raising the total so far to 128,465 cases, including 521 deaths.

The ministry projects that infections will rise to 5,000 cases a day by April if the reproduction number used to measure the virus’ spread, known as the R0, remains at 1.1, Noor Hisham said in a Facebook post.

An increase in the R0 value to 1.2 would see cases rising by 8,000 daily by the third week of March, he said.

“We need to reduce the infectivity rate... to 0.5 to stop and curb local transmission,” he said.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Martin Petty and Hugh Lawson