dpa

Muhyiddin Yassin in the early hours of May 10 2018, when he was part of the Pakatan Harapan alliance that won the previous day’s parliamentary elections (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health announced 31 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase since March 12 and a tally that prompted a leading health official to suggest the country is “entering the recovery phase.”

Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said that Malaysia is on track to emulate neighbouring Thailand, which has a population more than twice as big, by seeing new cases drop to below 10 by next week.

Malaysia has “succeeded in flattening the curve,” Hisham said during a press conference, adding that he believes that the country’s Movement Control Order, the official name for a lockdown imposed on March 18, is working.

Malaysia’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 stand at 5,851, just over a third of smaller neighbour Singapore’s total, while 100 people have died in the country after being infected.

Almost 70 per cent of the total infected in Malaysia have recovered, according to the Ministry of Health.

Despite the drop in daily new cases to an average of 53 over the past week, the government has extended the lockdown to May 12.

“Let’s stay disciplined and deal with it now for our own convenience in the future,” Defence Minister Ismail Sabri said during a separate Tuesday press conference, arguing that is preferable to retain the lockdown rather than have to re-impose it should infection numbers rise again.

Ismail said that over 21,000 people have been arrested during the lockdown, which confines people to their homes, with exceptions allowed such as food shopping or commuting to work.

Among the alleged breaches reported by police included people jogging or saying they needed to get fresh air or buy food.

Among those charged for breaching the restrictions was Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmin, who was fined 1000 ringgit on Tuesday for taking part in a meal on April 18.

Malaysia’s parliamentarians will be tested for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, ahead of a controversial one-day house sitting scheduled for May 18.

Members of parliament have been told by house secretary Riduan Rahmat that “all MPs must get tested for Covid-19 in parliament from May 14 to 15.”

A March 9 parliamentary session was postponed after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took the reins in a late February power struggle that deposed the winners of 2018 elections.

The same week, a Muslim ceremony was held in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts, spawning around half of Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases and leading to the lockdown being imposed as related infections became apparent in mid-March.

On Tuesday, opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang described the May 18 sitting, before which lawmakers will not be allowed to table questions or motions, as making “utter nonsense of the parliamentary role of oversight and scrutiny of government measures in the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Citing the pandemic, Muhyiddin said in a Saturday TV interview that it is “not the time for politics.”

Malaysians are “sick of politics,” the prime minister said.

After Muhyiddin took power, previous incumbent Mahathir Mohamad claimed he retained the support of a narrow majority of lawmakers, before accusing his former ally Muhyiddin of postponing parliament to avoid being challenged in a no-confidence vote.

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