Malaysia locks down as Dutch to ease curbs

·2-min read

Malaysian authorities have announced a two-week "total lockdown" in a bid to cut the spread of the coronavirus while restrictions are set to be relaxed in the Netherlands next week.

Urging Malaysians to "stay at home," Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced late on Friday that "all sectors" of the economy would have to shut down from June 1, except for those classified as essential by the government in a list to be issued soon.

The measures tighten those that are currently in place during a lockdown introduced earlier in May and are likely to match those imposed during the country's first lockdown last year, in which factory and plantation output was restricted.

Malaysia's gross domestic product shrank by about 17 per cent during the second quarter.

Muhyiddin's statement came after the Health Ministry announced a new one-day record of almost 8300 cases, with Friday's virus-linked death toll at 61.

The latest figures mean of a total of 2552 deaths since the outbreak began, more than 1000 were recorded this month alone.

The country, which is home to almost 33 million people, has recorded more than half a million virus cases since the first infection was reported early last year.

The ministry lists more than 70,000 cases as "active".

Meanwhile, about 1 million people have been vaccinated.

Muhyiddin said that hospital capacity has been stretched but added that "the government will not allow the public health system to collapse".

The Netherlands is due to ease COVID-19 lockdown measures next week, allowing bars and restaurants to serve indoors and museums to reopen in what Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday called a "calculated risk".

"We are moving from closed, unless, to open, unless," he told reporters.

Infections have fallen by more than half in the past month as the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations gathers pace, allowing a further easing of the lockdown, which has been in effect in various stages for almost eight months.

Previous steps in recent weeks allowed for secondary schools to reopen and for meals and drinks to be served on outdoor terraces until 8pm.

Bars and restaurants will now also be allowed to serve customers indoors and to stay open until 10pm, Rutte said.

At home, people will be allowed to receive four visitors at a time, up from the present two.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the drop in infections was mainly due to vaccinations.

"Almost half the people over 18 have had their first jab," De Jonge said.

The government also announced that if infections stay at the current level, more restrictions will be lifted on June 30.

From that date, sports matches will be allowed, restaurants will be able to serve up to 100 people and stay open till midnight.

At home, people will be allowed to receive up to eight guests.

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