Malaysia’s Covid Infection Rate Climbs as Ramadan Begins

Malaysia’s coronavirus is spreading at its fastest rate since at least March, days after the government warned the country may be on the cusp of a fourth wave at the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

The so-called “Rt” rate -- the reproduction number that shows how quickly the virus multiplies -- was 1.14 as of April 14, according to Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah on Twitter.

Malaysia’s new new Covid-19 cases topped 2,000 for the first time since March 5 on Thursday, and there’s concern that the government’s decision to allow bazaars to stay open through Ramadan may fuel the virus’s spread. Last year, most businesses remained closed during the Muslim fasting month to contain the pandemic.

Rising cases have renewed buying interest in shares of the country’s biggest glove producers. Top Glove Corp. jumped rose almost 7% on Thursday, Supermax Corp. surged 13% and Hartalega Holdings Bhd. added 5.4%.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has urged visitors to bazaars to follow the set protocols, which include separating the entry and exit routes of visitors. The government doesn’t intend to impose a movement control order -- Malaysia’s strictest form of lockdown -- and will rely on targeted curbs in affected sites, he said in a speech to industry stakeholders on Thursday.

“As more and more Malaysians get vaccinated, I’m convinced that we are finally at the brink of effectively ending this pandemic,” Muhyiddin said.

Problem is, Malaysia is struggling with low vaccine supplies. The country expects mass inoculation to be in full swing once supplies stabilize starting June, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement Wednesday. The government this week allowed private hospitals to administer the shots to speed up the vaccination drive.

A total of 425,164 individuals received both doses of their vaccine shots under the first phase of the immunization program as of April 14, data from the health ministry show. About 36% of the population, or 8,760,857 people, have registered for the shots.

The spurt in cases, fueled mainly by the falling compliance toward virus protocols, has undermined the government’s forecast of daily Covid cases falling to 500 by mid-May, Health Minister Adham Baba said on Monday.

Kelantan state, which registers the second-highest Rt rate at 1.27, saw most of its districts placed under renewed movement curbs effective Thursday. The health ministry has proposed that the government maintain the interstate travel ban for Eid al-Fitr, a day of celebration that caps the fasting month, Bernama reported.

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