Malaysia announced a state of emergency on Tuesday morning, suspending parliament and state legislatures, hours before millions of Malaysians were set to go back into lockdown following a surge in coronavirus cases that threatened to overwhelm the country’s public health system.
A statement from the royal palace said the king had agreed to a declaration of emergency following a Monday meeting with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in view of the escalating pandemic and its pressure on the public health system. The emergency will remain in force until August 1, or earlier if COVID-19 cases fall, the statement said.
In a televised speech on Tuesday morning, Muhiyddin said that under the emergency the national parliament and state legislatures would be suspended and elections would no longer be allowed. There would be no curfew and his government would continue to run the country, he said.
“A lot of people are, number one, in disbelief,” political analyst Oh Ei Sun told Al Jazeera. “They are looking to learning more details about how their civil rights might be curtailed.”
On Monday evening, without mentioning the king had already approved his request for an emergency, Muhyiddin announced a lockdown from midnight (13:00 GMT) in eight states and federal territories of the country because hospitals were at “breaking point”. The lockdown includes Kuala Lumpur and the states of Sabah, Selangor, Penang and Johor where the lockdown will remain in force for two weeks until January 26.
Malaysia brought an earlier wave of COVID-19 under control with a strict three-month lockdown under which people were mostly prevented from leaving their homes and gradually eased curbs as cases dwindled. In July last year, authorities announced zero new cases of local transmission.