Malaysia has shut a mass vaccination center in its worst-hit state after more than 200 medical staff and volunteers tested positive for the coronavirusBy EILEEN NG Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 10:00 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia shut down a mass vaccination center in its worst-hit state Tuesday after more than 200 medical staff and volunteers tested positive for the coronavirus.The closure was the first of a vaccination center and came as the country’s new confirmed infections breached five figures Tuesday, hitting a record 11,079.Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stressed that swift government action had contained the cluster at the Ideal Convention Center in central Selangor state.Khairy, who is in charge of the national immunization program, said he ordered the testing of all 453 workers at the center after two volunteers were confirmed to have the virus. Khairy said the 204 whose results were positive had low viral loads, meaning the amount of virus in their bodies was small.This could be because 88% or 400 of the workers have already been vaccinated, he said.The center was shut for deep sanitization and all its workers are being isolated. Khairy said it will reopen Wednesday with a new team of medical workers.He urged people who were vaccinated at the center since Friday to isolate themselves for 10 days and be tested if they develop symptoms. He declined to say how many people had visited the center since Friday. It has the capacity to deliver up to 6,000 shots a day.“This is the first time we had to shut down a (vaccination center) because of positive cases but we acted fast. By shutting it down today and by taking corrective measures … we hope the disruption is only one day and that this will not hamper the vaccination process,” Khairy said.He said it would be safe to visit the center starting Wednesday for vaccinations.Khairy said health measures at all other vaccination centers will be tightened, but didn’t order other workers to be tested.Selangor, the country’s richest state bordering Kuala Lumpur, is the worst hit by the pandemic. It accounted for nearly half of Tuesday’s new cases, partly because of increased virus screening amid a tight lockdown.The government has struggled to contain the pandemic, which has worsened despite a lockdown since June 1. Total confirmed cases have soared by 50% since June 1 to 855,949, while deaths have more than doubled to over 6,200.Hospitals especially in Selangor have been overwhelmed, with some patients reportedly being treated on the floor due to a lack of beds, and corpses piling up in mortuaries.Vaccinations have picked up, with 11% of the population now fully inoculated. At least a quarter of the country’s 32 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine.The daily vaccination rate surpassed 420,000 doses on Monday, the national Bernama news agency quoted Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as saying,He expressed confidence that the fast pace of vaccination would help stem the outbreak.
Malaysia’s attorney general says Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin remains in power until it can be proven in Parliament that he had lost majority supportBy EILEEN NG Associated PressJuly 8, 2021, 10:36 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s attorney general said Thursday that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin remains in power until it can be proven in Parliament that he had lost majority support.The country was in a political limbo after the head of the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which is the largest party in the ruling alliance, urged Muhyiddin to step down and for an interim leader to take over until general elections can be held safely.It marked the culmination of months of tensions since Muhyiddin took power in March 2020, after initiating the downfall of the reformist government that won the 2018 vote. His Bersatu party joined up with UMNO, which was ousted in the 2018 polls, and others to form a new government. But the alliance is unstable with a razor-thin majority in Parliament and UMNO unhappy at playing second fiddle to Bersatu.The announcement could potentially trigger the collapse of Muhyiddin’s unelected government and fresh elections, although polls are unlikely during a raging coronavirus pandemic.Attorney General Idrus Harun said there is no clear evidence that Muhyiddin has lost majority support in Parliament. He said this can only be decided by lawmakers in the lower house, and not based on the statement of a political party.“Therefore, legally, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet remains in power to exercise their federal executive power,” he said in a brief statement. There has been no reaction from Muhyiddin.Parliament has been suspended under a coronavirus emergency since January. The measures was criticized by UMNO and others as a way for Muhyiddin to stay in power. The legislature will resume July 26, ahead of the Aug. 1 expiration of the emergency, after Muhyiddin caved in to growing pressure, including from the nation’s king.UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi earlier Thursday accused Muhyiddin’s government of failing to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. He said its inconsistent policies and half-baked lockdown measures have deepened economic hardships, with deaths doubling to more than 5,700 since a large-scale lockdown began June 1.Zahid urged Muhyiddin to resign and make way for a temporary leader who will focus on battling the pandemic until it is safe to hold general elections.“This is important to allow a government that is truly stable and has the mandate of the majority of the people to be formed,” he said after a meeting of UMNO’s top decision-making body.But it is unclear if UMNO’s 38 lawmakers will toe the party line. Some have already protested Zahid’s announcement. Local media said Defense Minister Ismail Sabri, who was named by Muhyiddin as his deputy Wednesday, led opposition to Zahid’s plan to exit the ruling alliance at the UMNO meeting.Muhyiddin’s office also said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein would take over Ismail’s post as one of four senior ministers. Both Ismail and Hishammuddin will retain their security and diplomatic portfolios respectively.Analysts said Muhyiddin has split UMNO by appointing second-tier leaders to his Cabinet and reinforced it with the new appointments.“There has been 17 months of political deals and things have now come to a head. There is open war in UMNO and we have a weak government trying still to stay in power,” said Bridget Welsh from Malaysia’s University of Nottingham and an expert in Southeast Asian politics.No coalition has a clear majority in Parliament. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim may try to seek support but Zahid has said UMNO will not endorse his candidacy for prime minister.UMNO earlier this year said the party will not work with Muhyiddin’s alliance in the next general election. Its attempt to seek early elections has been stymied by a worsening coronavirus crisis. Malaysia reported 8,868 new infections Thursday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 808,658.
The largest party in Malaysia’s ruling alliance said Thursday that it will withdraw support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin immediately and urged him to make way for a new leaderBy EILEEN NG Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 7:07 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The largest party in Malaysia’s ruling alliance said Thursday that it will withdraw support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin immediately and urged him to make way for a new leader.The announcement is a political bombshell that could potentially trigger the collapse of the government if he refuses to quit and spark a general election.Muhyiddin took power in March 2020 after initiating the downfall of the former reformist government that won the 2018 elections. His Bersatu party joined with the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which was ousted in the 2018 polls, and others to form a new government, but his alliance has a razor-thin majority in Parliament.UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Muhyiddin’s government has failed to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he said its inconsistent policies and half-baked lockdown measures have deepened the economic hardship.Zahid urged Muhyiddin to resign and make way for a temporary leader to take over until the pandemic eases and a general election can be held safely.“This is important to allow a government that is truly stable and has the mandate of the majority of the people to be formed,” he said in a statement after a meeting of UMNO’s top decision-making body.There was no immediate reaction from Muhyiddin or his party.UMNO’s decision came just hours after Muhyiddin named an UMNO lawmaker as his deputy, in what was seen as a calculated bid to persuade the party to stay on. Tensions have been brewing for months in the ruling alliance, with UMNO unhappy at playing second fiddle to Bersatu.The prime minister’s office named Defense Minister Ismail Sabri as the deputy premier and said he also would retain his security post. Muhyiddin had broken with tradition by not appointing a deputy premier to his Cabinet last year but named four senior ministers instead, two of which are from his own party and Ismail from UMNO.Muhyiddin’s office said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein would take over Ismail’s post as one of the four senior ministers, while retaining his diplomatic portfolio. It had voiced hope that the promotions would unite the ruling parties and boost the government’s strength.Analysts said Muhyiddin has split UMNO by appointing second-tier leaders to his Cabinet and reinforced it with the new appointments. Both those two UMNO lawmakers are in a camp opposed to UMNO leader Zahid.But the move failed to stem the strong opposition in UMNO to Muhyiddin and his party.UMNO earlier this year said the party will not work with Muhyiddin’s alliance in the next general election. Its attempt to seek early elections has been stymied by a worsening coronavirus crisis, with the country plunged in a second national lockdown since June 1.Zahid noted that the country’s deaths from the pandemic had doubled to 5,768 since the lockdown began. Total confirmed coronavirus infections in Malaysia now stand near 800,000, with daily infections breaching 7,000 in the past two days.He said Muhyiddin abused a coronavirus emergency that was declared in January for his political gain. The emergency suspended Parliament, which means support for Muhyiddin’s leadership cannot be tested.Muhyiddin agreed to let Parliament resume July 26, ahead of the Aug. 1 expiration of the emergency, after growing pressure, including from the nation’s king.Zahid didn’t propose anyone as the interim prime minister but said UMNO will not support opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who has been lobbying for support. It is unclear how the political situation will pan out as no coalition now has a clear majority.“As long as Bersatu is in charge, UMNO will not be all right,” said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — When Mohamad Nor Abdullah put a white flag outside his window late at night, he didn’t expect the swift outpouring of support. By morning, dozens of strangers knocked on his door, offering food, cash and encouragement.Malaysia’s nationwide lockdown to curb a coronavirus surge was tightened further on Saturday, banning people in certain areas from leaving their homes except to buy food and necessities.It lurched Mohamad Nor into desperation. He ekes out a living by selling packed nasi lemak, a popular dish of coconut milk rice with condiments, at a roadside stall every morning, but that income has vanished and government aid was insufficient.The white flag campaign that emerged on social media last week aims to help people like Mohamad Nor, who is 29 and was born without arms. By chance, he saw the campaign on Facebook and decided to try to seek help.“It was so unexpected. So many people reached out to help, support and also encouraged me,” Mohamad Nor said, sitting in his dingy room amid boxes of biscuits, rice, cooking oil and water that were swiftly donated to him. He said kind Samaritans offered to help pay his room rental and that the assistance should be enough to tide him through the next few months.The #benderaputih campaign began as Malaysian society’s response to rising suicides believed linked to economic hardships caused by the pandemic. Police reported 468 suicides in the first five months this year, an average of four a day and up sharply from 631 for the whole of 2020.Social media posts urged people to hoist a white flag or cloth to signal they needed immediate help “without having to beg or feel embarrassed.” Scores of food retailers and celebrities have responded with offers of help and many Malaysians have driven around their neighborhood to find white flags.Thousands of people have lost their jobs since Malaysia enacted various curbs on movement, including a coronavirus state of emergency that has suspended Parliament since January. The strict national lockdown imposed on June 1 is the second in more than a year.Coronavirus cases in Malaysia have jumped to more than 778,000 cases, nearly seven-fold from the whole of last year, with over 5,400 deaths.Reports of families receiving speedy help after raising a white flag have warmed the hearts of Malaysians. A single mother and her teenage daughter who survived on biscuits for days were fed by neighbors, an indebted hawker on the verge of ending his life received cash help to start anew, a Myanmar refugee family who survive on just one meal a day were given instant food supplies.While many hail the white flag movement as a show of unity and solidarity, not all agree.A lawmaker from an Islamist party, which is part of the ruling coalition, attracted public anger when he told people to pray to God instead of waving a white flag in surrender. A state chief minister slammed the campaign as propaganda against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.It has sparked copycats. An animal association encouraged financially strapped people who couldn’t afford to feed their pets to display a red flag.Anti-government protesters launched a black flag campaign over the weekend, with opposition lawmakers and others putting up black flags on social media to demand the premier to resign, for an end to the emergency and for Parliament to reopen. Police however, reportedly said they are investigating the black flag campaign for sedition, public mischief and misuse of network facilities for offensive purposes.Muhyiddin, who took power in March 2020 after political maneuvers brought down the former reformist government, faces intense challenge from the opposition and within his own coalition. Support for his leadership cannot be tested with Parliament suspended.Muhyiddin’s office announced Monday that the lower house will resume July 26, just days before the emergency expires Aug. 1, caving into pressure from the the king and ethnic Malay state rulers.James Chin, an Asian expert at Australia’s University of Tasmania, said the white flag movement could fuel public anger over a perceived inept in the government’s ability to manage the crisis.“The white flag campaign will no doubt be used as a major political weapon to show that the government is a massive failure,” he said.———This story corrects that Muhyiddin took power in March 2020, not 2019.———AP journalist Syawalludin Zain contributed to this report.