KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia said yesterday it will impose strict movement restrictions in four districts in its largest palm oil-producing state of Sabah, after reporting more than 1,000 coronavirus infections there this month.
The surge in cases in Sabah comes after the state held elections at the weekend, where the nation's ruling coalition continued its streak of victories to win the key opposition state amid challenges to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's premiership.
The election was dogged by politicians testing positive for the virus as the state became the new epicentre of Malaysia's outbreak.
Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, non-essential businesses in Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak and Semporna district will be required to shut down starting today for a period of 14 days.
Sabah accounts for 25 per cent of the crude palm oil produced in the world's second-largest exporter.
Malaysia had on Sunday reported the highest daily surge in coronavirus cases since Sept 11, the majority of them in Sabah.
Officials confirmed 150 new infections on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry, with 124 reported in the Borneo state. There was one additional death, also from Sabah, raising the national tally to 134.
Another 115 new cases were reported yesterday, bringing the country's total infections since the outbreak began to 11,034.
The authorities have added more health workers and equipment at the country's main Kuala Lumpur International Airport to check on flight passengers from Sabah, following complaints on social media that many had to queue between three and six hours to get Covid-19 tests.
Those arriving must take oral or nasal swabs and, if found negative, will be tagged with health armbands and undergo a compulsory 14-day home quarantine order. Those who test positive are taken to hospitals.
With the polls over, many political campaigners are flying back to Kuala Lumpur, joining other arrivals from Sabah, Malaysia's second biggest state after Sarawak.
Arriving passengers had complained on social media that there were not enough personnel manning the tests, and this was compounded when more flights arrived.
The long wait angered the exhausted and hungry passengers, and there was concern over the lack of social distancing in the crowded arrival corridors.
Health Minister Adham Baba and the ministry's director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah arrived at the airport early yesterday morning to survey the scene.
"The crowding problem will be immediately resolved with additional equipment and personnel," the ministry said on its Twitter account yesterday.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK