KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s ministry of health on Wednesday cautioned that the country has yet to see the worst of a current surge in coronavirus cases, as it reported its highest daily death count to date.
Malaysia recorded 39 deaths among the 4,765 new cases on Wednesday, pushing its total caseload past 450,000 with 1,761 fatalities – the third highest rate in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia and the Philippines.
The government on Monday declared a nationwide lockdown, just days before the Eid al-Fitr celebration, as the country grapples with a jump in cases that health authorities say could be linked to new and highly-infection variants.
“The communal spread of COVID-19 in the country is increasingly worrying,” Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
“The public need to make efforts to avoid being infected by this dangerous COVID-19 virus.”
The ministry earlier warned in a tweet that new daily cases could hit 5,000 by mid-May, a number not seen since late January during an earlier spike.
Health authorities said more infections involving new variants have been detected and nearly 80% of confirmed cases were asymptomatic.
All but one of the four COVID-19 variants of global concern have been detected in Malaysia, most recently the highly contagious B.1.617 variant first identified in India, although that case was contained, authorities said.
Variants that were first identified in South Africa and Britain have been detected earlier in several clusters across the country.
Just over 1.17 million people in Malaysia have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday, a rollout critics say is too slow. The government is aiming to inoculate 80% of the 32 million population by December. (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Martin Petty)
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