Malaysia to Extend Lockdown, Boost Covid Aid, Muhyiddin Says

Malaysia will extend a nationwide lockdown that was originally due to end Monday as new Covid infections are still too high, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.

The movement restrictions will now stay in place until the nation’s daily caseload falls below 4,000, the official Bernama news agency reported, citing the premier. The government will announce more comprehensive assistance programs for all groups on Monday or Tuesday, he said during a visit to a vaccination center in the state of Selangor.

The government will relax one measure beginning Monday and allow eateries to operate for longer hours, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement Sunday. They can open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., compared to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., he said, adding that the decision was made after taking into account views of restaurant operators.

Extending the lockdown will be an additional blow for Malaysia’s economy, which the government is currently expecting to bounce back only in the last three months of the year. The World Bank on Wednesday slashed its 2021 growth forecast for the nation to 4.5% from 6%. The government said this month it is revising its earlier expansion estimate of 6% to 7.5% due to the lockdown.

Read more: Malaysia Sees Strong Economic Recovery in Final Quarter 2021

The closing of all but essential sectors is costing the economy 1 billion ringgit ($241 million) a day, Muhyiddin said earlier this month while unveiling a recovery plan. The prime minister announced a 40 billion ringgit package at the end of May, the government’s third this year.

Malaysia’s infection rate has declined below 1 since initial lockdown measures took effect on June 1, from a peak of 1.21 in May when daily cases topped 9,000. Still, new infections remain elevated, with the country adding 5,586 cases on Sunday alone.

Malaysia expects to transition to the second phase of its recovery plan once new daily cases drop below 4,000, 10% of the population is fully vaccinated, and usage of ICU beds is at moderate capacity, Muhyiddin said earlier in June.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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