Malaysia extends virus lockdown though recoveries again top new cases – dpa international


Staff inside a Kuala Lumpur coffeeshop awaiting customers for takeaway. Sit-in business is not permitted during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

Staff inside a Kuala Lumpur coffeeshop awaiting customers for takeaway. Sit-in business is not permitted during Malaysia’s lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Friday that 222 more people had recovered from Covid-19, the fourth day this week that recoveries exceeded confirmed new cases, even as a nationwide lockdown was prolonged through late April.

Of Malaysia’s 4,346 positive diagnoses, 1,830 have recovered and been discharged from hospital since the first cases were confirmed on January 25.

Only 118 new cases were reported on Friday, with new daily cases this week the lowest in a month.

“Our trend is quite stable at the moment. Perhaps last week was our peak, now our cases are getting less and less,” said Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“We are on the right track,” said Hisham, who earlier met government ministers to discuss the status of the nation’s lockdown. He said he advised the prime minister to extend the measures.

Prime Minister Muhyidddin Yassin confirmed that the restrictions will remain in place until April 28.

Muhyiddin said that although new infection numbers had been “significantly reduced,” the curbs will be retained.

The prime minister said during his Friday televised address that the extra two weeks aims to “give room” to the health sector to combat the virus, and, if successful, to “prevent re-emergence.”

Malaysia’s virus caseload is light relative to similar-sized European countries, but outweighs those of bigger neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where fatalities are far higher than Malaysia’s reported 70.

Malaysia’s lockdown was announced on March 16 after case numbers had quadrupled over the previous week.

Police and later soldiers manned roadblocks all over the country, arresting thousands for breaches of the lockdown – such as jogging, playing football, attempting to visit friends or go to mosques.

Malaysia’s borders were shut and citizens barred from leaving. Most businesses were forced to close or reduce operations and people were told to stay at home unless making “essential” trips such as commuting to work or buying food.

With tourism, which contributes around 14 per cent to Malaysia’s gross domestic product, at a standstill, and prices down for export commodities such as oil and gas, Malaysia’s economy could shrink by 2 per cent in 2020, according to the country’s central bank.

To try offset the economic impact of the pandemic, the government has proposed three fiscal stimulus packages worth almost a fifth of gross domestic product.

The lockdown has hamstrung domestic commerce, with a government survey published on Thursday suggesting that a third of farm workers and almost half of all self-employed people have been put out of work over the past month.

Muhyiddin said that during the two-week extension – which will take Muslim-majority Malaysia into the first week of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month – “selected sectors” of the economy will be allowed re-open, but “with security controls and tight movements

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