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Malaysia mulls shutdown of richest state amid COVID-19 surge

·2-min read
Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) collect a swab sample from a boy to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as the outbreak continues in Kuala Selangor

By Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's health ministry on Monday said it may push for a total lockdown of the country's most industrialised state if current coronavirus curbs are unable to rein in a spike in new cases.

The government banned social activities and travel between districts and states two weeks ago, as part of a Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed before the Eid al-Fitr holidays, as it grapples with a surge in COVID-19 infections that experts have said may involve highly contagious variants.

Business activity can still operate, but the government may need to shut that down in the state of Selangor if the situation worsens, Health Minister Adham Baba said.

Selangor is a key contributor to gross domestic product and employment as the country's shipping hub and industrial capital.

It is also where the world's top rubber glove manufacturers such as Top Glove have set up operations.

"If the MCO is unable to contain the spread, then a full MCO would be something that can be considered," Adham told a virtual news conference.

Selangor, the country's richest and most populous state, has reported well over a thousand new COVID-19 cases daily since May 5, making up at least a quarter of the daily cases nationally.

Malaysia has recorded over 470,000 cases with 1,902 deaths as of Sunday, the third highest infection rate in the region behind Indonesia and the Philippines.

Critics have said the government has been slow in rolling out its national vaccination programme.

Its aim is to inoculate 80% of Malaysia's 32 million population by December.

Around 1.19 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far, according to health ministry data.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Martin Petty)