Malaysia’s Prime Minister Quarantines After Cabinet Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19

Recent Features

ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Quarantines After Cabinet Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19

Amid soaring cases, the Malaysian religious affairs minister has been hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Quarantines After Cabinet Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19
Credit: Pixabay

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Monday he will self-quarantine after a Cabinet minister he was in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus, as new cases in the country hit a record high.

Muhyiddin had chaired an October 3 meeting attended by Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who confirmed Monday he has been hospitalized for treatment.

The health ministry has warned that Malaysia is facing a new wave of virus cases as the outbreak has widened in recent days. New clusters have sprung up in many states amid increased travel to eastern Sabah state, a hotspot zone, for a state election last month.

New virus cases hit a record daily high of 432 on Monday, bringing Malaysia’s tally to 12,813 with 137 deaths. Nearly half were from a prison in a northern state, and 130 were in Sabah.

Muhyiddin, who took power in March after a political coup, said in a statement that he had undergone virus testing every two weeks since April. But since September 22, after returning from campaigning in Sabah, he had been tested three times and all were negative.

However, he said he will observe the quarantine and work from home until October 16. Muhyiddin said all those in close contact with Zulkifli at the meeting will undergo compulsory quarantine, while others are advised to observe self-isolation.

Local reports cited national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador, who also attended the meeting, as saying he will isolate himself even though he tested negative. Other attendees reportedly included several ministers, the armed forces chief, and the health director-general. Health ministry officials couldn’t be immediately reached for confirmation and further details.

This was the second time that Muhyiddin has voluntarily observed a self-quarantine. He did the same in May when one of his Cabinet officers was diagnosed with the virus.

Local reports said Zulkfili visited two states and attended a number of events, including at mosques and universities, since returning from Sabah on September 24. Zulkifli apologized in a Facebook post and urged all those at events he attended to undergo virus tests.

Apart from Zulkfili, several other lawmakers have been diagnosed with the virus after traveling to Sabah. The corruption trial of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak was also postponed Monday after defense lawyers told the court Najib has to serve a two-week quarantine after returning from campaigning in Sabah.

The government announced earlier Monday that more areas in Sabah, including state capital Kota Kinabalu, will be locked down and 122 schools closed to curb the virus. Sabah is just a boat ride away from the Philippines, which has recorded more than 324,000 cases.

Malaysia resumed its economic activities in June after nearly three months of lockdown.

By the Associated Press in Kuala Lumpur.