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Asia Minute: Malaysia Monitors Pandemic Changes

AP Photo/Vincent Thian
A worker eats lunch at an empty food court at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Malaysian authorities imposed tighter restrictions on movement to try to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Among the many locations dealing with rising cases of the coronavirus is Malaysia. The Southeast Asian country imposed some restrictions earlier this month, but a debate is underway about whether to take further steps.


A little more than two weeks ago, Malaysia’s government declared a national state of emergency because of the growing pandemic. New cases reached a daily record of 3,300 — and at that point more people had died in December and January than in the previous ten months combined.

More recently, new cases approached 4,300 in one day — with a record daily tally of 18 deaths.

On Monday, the Minister for International Trade and Industry warned against a total lockdown of the country, saying the “overarching priority” is “to strike a balance between protecting lives and livelihoods.”

Last spring, Malaysia did impose a broad stay at home order — reducing its number of coronavirus cases, but also resulting in a quarterly drop in GDP of more than 17% — the worst economic performance since its independence from Britain in 1957.

Right now, certain sectors of the economy are operating — from manufacturing and construction to agriculture and other service industries.

The current “Movement Control Order” runs through the end of March, and Malaysia’s Health Director General said Monday he has no desire to extend it. But some additional changes may be coming from the creation of quarantine spaces in worker dormitories to reducing the number of co-workers allowed to travel together in vehicles.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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