KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will not re-impose widespread coronavirus restrictions on travel despite a recent spike in infections, which a government minister said was partly caused by migrants from neighbouring countries.
Malaysia imposed a nationwide lockdown in March but has been gradually lifting the curbs, though authorities have warned that they could be reinstated if daily increases in infections reached triple-digits.
The Southeast Asian country has seen a steady climb in cases in the past week and on Saturday reported 317 new infections, the highest daily rise since it began tracking the pandemic.
But security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government did not see the need to reimpose the lockdown as the majority of cases were being reported in detention centres and isolated districts.
“There’s only one or two cases in each state so it’s not something that’s worrying at this point,” Ismail told reporters.
The government has come under criticism for the increase in cases, many of which have been in or linked to the second-largest state of Sabah, on Borneo island, which held an election last week.
Several politicians have been accused of violating social distancing protocols on the campaign trail, while authorities were criticised for not imposing control measures such as a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers from Sabah.
Ismail said the Sabah outbreak stemmed from the illegal entry of migrants. The government would increase resources and personnel to guard the state’s borders, he said.
“The cases in neighbouring countries have gone up and the entry of illegal migrants from there have impacted on our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Malaysia has avoided the level of outbreaks seen in neighbours the Philippines and Indonesia, which have 319,330 and 299,506 cases respectively.
Malaysia has reported a total of 12,088 infections, with 137 deaths.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alexander Smith
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