KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Monday evening that 236 people have recovered from the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the highest daily total so far.
The confirmed recoveries substantially exceed the 130 new infections diagnosed over the same period and were announcedduring a press conference where ministry officials jubilantly displayed signs emblazoned with “236.”
Of Malaysia’s 3,773 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, 1,241 people have recovered, while 61 have died.
The rise in recoveries and flattening of new case numbers comes ahead of an April 10 decision by the government on whether to extend a lockdown aimed at containing the virus.
The lockdown was imposed on March 18 after a sudden spike in cases, the number of which stood at just 83 one month ago.
Most businesses have been forced to close and only those sectors deemed essential are permitted to operate. The country’s borders have been shut and more than 4,000 people have been arrested for breaching instructions to stay indoors unless commuting to work or shopping.
On Friday Malaysia’s central bank said that the country’s economy could contract by up to 2 per cent in 2020 due to the pandemic, which has infected around 1.2 million people globally.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Monday that Malaysia will spend an extra 10 billion ringgit (2.32 billion dollars) to counter the economic impact of the pandemic and counter-measures such as the lockdown.
The revised spending plan means Malaysia has allocated around 260 million ringgit, almost a fifth of gross domestic product, to try stall the looming recession.
Muhyiddin previously announced a huge 58-billion-dollar fiscal spending package on March 27, a month after predecessor Mahathir Mohamad proposed a first round of spending of just under 5 billion dollars.
At the time, Malaysia’s virus caseload stood at just 23 and the economic impact was limited to drops in tourism from and trade with China, the source of the outbreak.
Monday’s top-up aims to help hard-hit small- and medium-sized businesses with a subsidy worth 1,200 ringgit per employee.
“SMEs support the country’s economy; it’s important to make sure they are sustainable,” Muhyiddin said.
As well as hampering cash-strapped SMEs, the lockdown restrictions have hit linchpin sectors, with the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA), an industry body, complaining its producers have been operating at 50-per-cent capacity.
MARGMA believes that the coronavirus pandemic will drive demand for gloves up from 298 billion pieces in 2019 to 345 billion this year, with its members ready to supply 65 per cent of global needs.
The complaints raised concerns that the world’s frontline medics will not have enough surgical or protective gloves to enable them work safely during the pandemic – and in turn focused attention on other businesses operating through the lockdown.
Separate complaints by two ruling coalition parties prompted the government to rule on Monday that Heineken and Carlsberg must close their local breweries to comply with the lockdown in the Muslim-majority country.
Both the youth wing of Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party and the Parti Islam se Malaysia (PAS), also part of the governing coalition, had questioned whether the breweries should be listed among the “essential” businesses allowed to operate during the lockdown.
Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said during a Monday press conference that the decision to suspend the breweries’ operations was due to public pressure.
“Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp groups and many more were questioning why the Heineken and Carlsberg factories were still allowed to be open,” Ismail said.Show