Asia Minute: Malaysia Restricts Travel Amid Surge in Coronavirus Cases
While much of the pandemic story has shifted to vaccinations, in some parts of the world the focus remains on controlling community spread—including curbs on travel. And that involves a growing part of Southeast Asia.
New restrictions on travel are going into effect in Malaysia on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister announced a ban on travel across state and district lines unless it’s for work, emergencies, or medical appointments.
Also, there will be no dining-in at restaurants, and no social events or activities at least for about a month.
It’s the third major shutdown for Malaysia since the pandemic began. This one was put in place because deaths and case numbers have been climbing sharply in recent weeks.
The timing of the restrictions is challenging because it comes during what is usually one of the biggest times of feasting, celebrations and family gatherings in the country—Eid—the end of Ramadan.
Malaysia is a secular government, but according to the latest census figures, more than 60% of the population is Muslim.
Active cases of COVID-19 in the country have more than doubled in the past month from about 15,000 to more than 37,000.
A national vaccination program has been underway since late February, but only about 3% of the population has been vaccinated, in part because of supply issues.
Malaysia’s Health Minister says that situation should improve—with expected shipments of more than 3.5 million doses of vaccine this month from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and the Chinese supplier Sinovac.