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Malaysia warns of new coronavirus wave following election spike

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask crosses a street in front of Petronas Twin Towers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities warned of a new wave of coronavirus after 260 new infections were reported on Thursday, the biggest daily spike since early June, following an election in the country’s second-largest state Sabah.

Malaysia has largely avoided a massive outbreak thanks to strict early lockdowns but daily new infections have climbed in the past week, after an increase in travellers to Sabah ahead of its state elections last Saturday.

Thursday’s rise was the second-largest since the start of the pandemic, which peaked at 277 daily cases on June 4.

Director-general of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said the increase in cases could be seen as “the beginning of a new wave” and urged the public to continue practicing social distancing and avoid leaving their homes unless necessary.

“It is up to us now to flatten the curve. We have done it before and we can do it again,” he told a news conference.

The Southeast Asian country has reported a total of 11,484 cases of the virus so far, including 136 deaths.

The recent rise in cases has prompted criticism of the government after at least two politicians tested positive for the virus while campaigning in Sabah.

Cases linked to travel to the state have been reported in all 13 Malaysian states this week.

On Thursday, 600 school students in the west Malaysian state of Penang were ordered to undergo testing after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning from accompanying her husband, a politician, on the Sabah campaign trail, local media reported.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Toby Chopra and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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