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Malaysia declares state of emergency over C-19 spread

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Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah on January 12 declared a nationwide state of emergency to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system. AFP/Malaysia’s Department of Information/Nazri Rapaai

KUALA LUMPUR, (AFP) – Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday to fight a coronavirus surge that is overwhelming hospitals..

The announcement came a day after the prime minister introduced sweeping new curbs across much of the Southeast Asian nation, including the closure of most businesses, and warned the health system was “at breaking point”.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah agreed to declare an emergency until August 1 following a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a Monday meeting, the national palace said in a statement.

In a televised address, Muhyiddin said parliament would be suspended and elections would not take place, with the king able to enact new laws if necessary.

But the leader, whose 10-month-old government faces a host of challenges, insisted that “the civilian government will continue to function”.

“The emergency declaration… is not a military coup and a curfew will not be enforced,” he said.

He insisted he was committed to holding a general election once the country’s outbreak is brought under control.

The announcement came after Muhyiddin’s key coalition allies threatened to withdraw support, which could have led to the collapse of the government and snap national polls that some feared could worsen the outbreak.

Malaysia kept the virus in check for much of last year with a tough lockdown but, once curbs were eased, cases accelerated and have repeatedly hit fresh records in recent days.

As well as suspending political life, the declaration gives the government powers to take over private hospitals as government facilities become overwhelmed, and get extra help from the military and police, Muhyiddin said.

The emergency could be lifted earlier if the rate of infection slows. The country has reported more than 138,000 virus cases and 555 deaths.

An election in the state of Sabah last year has been blamed for triggering a new wave of infections that spread nationwide.

 

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