Malaysia Records Highest Daily Rise in COVID-19 Cases

Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2021-01-07
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Malaysia Records Highest Daily Rise in COVID-19 Cases Army personnel set up barbed-wire fencing around Hentian Kajang Plaza in Kajang, Malaysia, during a targeted COVID-19 lockdown, Oct.27, 2020.
[BenarNews/S. Mahfuz]

Malaysia reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections – a national record for new cases in a single day – as the health director-general warned Thursday that the daily number could hit 5,000 by April’s second week at the current infection rate.

Targeted lockdowns would help reduce infections, Noor Hisham Abdullah said, even as an influential manufacturers’ group warned that a total lockdown could lead to the economy’s collapse.

“On Jan 7, 2021, Malaysia recorded the highest number of daily new COVID-19 cases with 3,027 new cases. This has increased the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Malaysia to 128,465,” Noor Hisham said in a statement.

This was the first time the country had breached 3,000 cases, having set a daily record for new infections with nearly 2,600 more cases reported on Wednesday.

The country’s health system is reaching its “breaking point” and it is imperative to reduce new infections, Noor Hisham warned.

“We need a circuit breaker to bring down the number of daily new cases to 200 from 2,000, to be able to manage the situation better,” he said.

The coronavirus is rebounding in other Southeast Asian countries as well.  

Indonesia reported a record 9,321 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, bringing its total cases to 797,723. With 224 coronavirus-related deaths, total fatalities rose to 23,520.

In Thailand, the country that had been among the least affected by the global pandemic until mid-December, 305 new cases on Thursday raised its total caseload to 9,636.

And the Philippines reported 1,353 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to more than 480,000, the second highest number in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.

‘Targeted lockdowns’

In Malaysia, Noor Hisham warned that the number of cases could rise exponentially if the country did not lower the COVID-19 infection rate.

In two charts posted on Twitter, Noor Hisham shared the health ministry’s projections of the number of daily new cases up until May 2021, based on the country’s current infection rate, or R-nought , which he had said was currently 1.1.

R0, or R-nought, is a mathematical term epidemiologists use to calculate how contagious a disease is. The term represents the number of people a person with the virus can infect.

“Please pay attention to the number of daily COVID-19 cases and the projection in number of cases from Jan. 4 until May 31, 2021 with infectivity rate at 1.1 and 1.2 in Malaysia,” Noor Hisham said in a caption to the charts he posted.

The charts show that if the infection rate stays at 1.1, Malaysia could see 5,000 new daily cases by the second week of April, and 8,000 new daily infections by the fourth week of May.

If the infection rate goes up to 1.2, new daily cases could reach 5,000 much sooner, by the third week of February, and 8,000 new daily infections by the third week of March, the charts show.

On Wednesday, Noor Hisham had said that Malaysia’s R-nought, currently at 1.1, was increasing to 1.2.

“Although we managed to prevent an exponential spike in number of cases, we were not able to bring down the number of new daily cases. Our R-nought is still at 1.1 and it is increasing to 1.2. We failed to bring it down to 0.5,” he had said.

The Ministry of Health also is forecasting a rise in new infections in the two-week period from Jan. 1, as many people went home during Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Malaysia’s decision to lift an interstate travel ban on Dec 7, 2020 contributed to the rise in new infections and a targeted lockdown would help stem the rise, Noor Hisham said.

The government is expected to soon decide on targeted lockdowns, he added.

“Rather than [involving] the whole nation, like we did on March 18 last year, it would be a more targeted approach. We will be more localized in terms of implementation. Discussions are ongoing and probably we will make some decisions as soon as possible,” Noor Hisham said.

‘Still reeling from’ impact of pandemic, lockdown

The country’s industries are concerned about the spike in COVID-19 infections but the government should not impose a second complete lockdown, Soh Thian Lai, president of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, said in a statement on Thursday.

“As it stands, the business fraternity and the economy are still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first lockdown, and most have yet to rebuild their business back to the pre-COVID-19 level,” Soh said.

In March last year, the government imposed a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The country lost about RM 2.4 billion (U.S. $594 million) a day because of the lockdown, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said in May 2020.

The federation will support stricter controls, Soh said.

“We support a targeted Conditional MCO (Movement Control Order), which is more localized coupled with stricter Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and restrictions on travel, but not a total lockdown similar to that implemented in March and April 2020,” he said.

“Should a second total lockdown be instituted, there is grave fear over the collapse of the business sectors and economy given that the several major states are the hub and heart of the country’s economic activities.” 

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