Roundup: Malaysia declares state of emergency to contain COVID-19 surge

2021-01-12 13:05:28 GMT2021-01-12 21:05:28(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday that King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has consented to declare a state of emergency in the country to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Abdullah gave his consent for the period of emergency to take effect until Aug. 1 or an earlier date if the number of daily COVID-19 figures can be effectively controlled and lowered, the national palace said in a statement on Tuesday.

Abdullah deemed that the COVID-19 pandemic in the country was now at a "very critical stage" and that proclaiming the state of emergency is necessary after meeting with Muhyiddin on Monday, according to the statement.

Following the announcement by the palace, Muhyiddin said in a televised speech on Tuesday that the civilian government will continue to function during the period and that no curfew would be imposed on the public, assuring that all economic activities will proceed as usual in compliance with standard operating procedures (SOP) and other conditions.

"We will ensure the economy will not stop and people can go about their business as per usual. We are committed to ensure good governance in this emergency period," he said.

Muhyiddin said the state of emergency could provide the authorities with more powers to reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases.

"This means the government now can have more exclusive involvement and power with the private hospital sectors, to help manage the load and difficulties faced by government hospitals," he said, adding that the state of emergency would allow the military to carry on more functions related to public health while allowing the police the tighten enforcement.

Muhyiddin also said the country's parliament and state assemblies would also be barred from convening until a date that will be set by the king and elections, whether national or state.

Muhyiddin has only commanded a slim majority at the lower house of parliament since assuming office in March last year. He has faced some calls from even within his ruling coalition to dissolve the parliament for general elections.

In the televised speech, Muhyiddin said the general elections could not take place now amid the pandemic, stressing that an independent committee comprising government and opposition members of parliament (MPs) as well as health experts would be set up during the state of emergency.

On Monday, Muhyiddin Yassin announced tightening movement restriction measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 for two weeks starting from Wednesday, citing the country's health care system being at a "breaking point."

The areas to impose tightened measures include capital Kuala Lumpur, the states of Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and northern Borneo state of Sabah, among others.

Under the stricter restrictions, all social events involving mass gatherings are banned. Residents are only allowed to travel within a radius of 10 km, and dine-in service for restaurants is not allowed.

Malaysia has seen a surge in new daily COVID-19 cases, as well as severe flooding in several states in recent weeks, with thousands being displaced from their homes.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 3,309 new COVID-19 infections in the highest daily spike since the outbreak, bringing the national total to 141,533. Another four deaths have been reported, pushing the total deaths to 559. Enditem