A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against Covid-19 walks down an empty street in Chinatown.
Wong Fok Loy | SOPA pictures | LightRocket via Getty Images
The Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia has become one of the worst in the world.
On a seven-day moving average, Malaysia recorded 483.72 confirmed Covid infections per million people on Wednesday – the eighth highest in the world and the top in Asia, according to the latest data compiled by the online repository Our World in Data.
Meanwhile, the country’s daily reported Covid-related deaths on Tuesday averaged about 4.90 per million people on a seven-day moving average. That’s the 19th highest in the world and the third highest in Asia, the data showed.
Our World in Data is a collaboration between researchers from the University of Oxford and the UK non-profit Global Change Data Lab.
Malaysia has managed to keep the number of infections low for much of 2020. However, the country is struggling to tame a surge in cases despite the introduction of several restrictions and a state of emergency.
Political analysts blame the government’s mistreatment of the outbreak as it worsened.
“Malaysia’s response is hampered by chaotic governance and ongoing political power struggles,” wrote Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Think Tank Council on Foreign Relations, in a report.
Malaysia’s political crisis
The Southeast Asian country found itself in political turmoil when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned in February last year. It paved the way for Muhyiddin to form a government by cobbling together a fragile coalition.
Political opponents have long challenged Muhyiddin’s claim to majority support in the country’s 222-seat parliament. Calls for the Prime Minister’s resignation – including among his allies – became louder after the Malaysian king issued a rare reprimand on Thursday about the government’s handling of the state of emergency.
The king had Muhyiddin’s application for a state of emergency from January to January 1.
Many analysts viewed the move as an attempt by the embattled prime minister to maintain his political position, particularly when parliament was suspended due to the state of emergency and elections could not be held.
When parliament convened again this week, the government surprised the nation by announcing that it had decided to end the state of emergency effective July 21. The king said the government’s unilateral revocation was inconsistent with constitutional procedure.
Since coming to power, Muhyiddin has tried to avoid parliamentary votes that his political opponents could use as a proxy for a vote of no confidence in his leadership. The Malaysian parliament has never voted on a motion of censure.
Covid vaccinations are increasing
Despite the political tussle, the Malaysian authorities have accelerated the pace of vaccinations in recent weeks. According to Our World in Data, more than 18% of the country’s 32 million people are fully vaccinated.
Economists at British bank Barclays estimate that Malaysia – along with Singapore and South Korea – will be among the Asian countries to reach a “critical level” of vaccinations this year.
The Malaysian government announced that it would vaccinate most of the adult population by the end of the year.
Still, economists said the worsening outbreak and ongoing social distancing measures have hurt Malaysia’s growth prospects.
Barclays cut its growth forecast for 2021 from 5.5% to 5% last month. That is well below the Malaysian central bank’s forecast range of 6% to 7.5%.