Malaysian king, PM announce state of emergency until August, national lockdowns over virus surge

Malaysian king, PM announce state of emergency until August, national lockdowns over virus surge
People wearing protective masks cross a street in front of Petronas Twin Towers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 11, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2021

Malaysian king, PM announce state of emergency until August, national lockdowns over virus surge

Malaysian king, PM announce state of emergency until August, national lockdowns over virus surge
  • The declaration of emergency will allow government assets, including the armed forces, to assist with public health management

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the country until August, just hours after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced reinstated nationwide lockdowns.

In a statement, the Malaysian Royal Household Comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the monarch decreed for the emergency as a proactive measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“According to statistics, 15 COVID-19 specialty hospitals have recorded up to 70 percent occupancy rate,” Shamsuddin added.

Malaysia’s PM, in a televised speech, outlined the specifics of the state of emergency and assured the public that the civilian government would continue to function.

Parliament and state assemblies will be suspended for the duration of the emergency.

“This is not a military coup and a curfew will not be enforced. I guarantee that the administration will not be affected, and the king can declare any ordinance as he sees fit,” Muhyiddin said.

The declaration of emergency will allow government assets, including the armed forces, to assist with public health management and takeovers of private hospitals.

Malaysia will see tighter borders and to protect the wellbeing of Malaysians, price control rules will be introduced.

This is the second time a national state of emergency has been declared in Malaysia with the first being in 1969 after an insurgence of racial riots wreaked havoc in the capital. Almost 200 people were killed in the rioting dubbed the “13 May incident.”

In-fighting between politicians in the National Alliance Party has been further threatening Muhyiddin’s position in parliament as support for his government weans away.

Prof. James Chin, Tasmania University’s Asia Institute director, told Arab News that he believed there was no hidden agenda behind Muhyiddin’s call for a declaration of emergency but politically he would benefit from it.

“He doesn’t want an election and with a state of emergency, he can halt that process,” Chin said.

He added that he was not surprised by the premier’s decision to meet the king to ask for an emergency as he had done it before.

“We should not be too surprised by the emergency as he did try a few months ago so this is very much related to COVID-19 management. But he does benefit from it politically,” he said.

In his speech, Muhyiddin said: “Lately there are parties that have been pushing for elections and it is not my intention to hold any election as my concern against the election is the COVID-19 virus.”

On Monday, Muhyiddin announced some form of lockdowns for 13 states and three federal territories in Malaysia after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases throughout Malaysia.

Since September, Malaysia’s third wave of infections with thousands of new cases reported daily has caused strains on the Malaysian healthcare system.

Cases have risen to nearly 136,000 infections since Sunday, as compared to nearly 10,000 cases since mid-September, with 551 deaths as of Monday.

Six states including Johor, Selangor, Penang, and federal territories including Putrajaya, Labuan and Kuala Lumpur will undergo a strict 14-day lockdown or a movement control order starting midnight on Wednesday.

Other states with lower infections are placed under recovery and conditional movement orders.

Residents are required to stay indoors, and employers have been given directives to allow staff to work from home.

Only two individuals from each household may leave the premises to purchase food, necessities, or medical emergencies while interstate travel has been banned indefinitely.


Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam, on Jan. 23, 2021. (Pro News via AP)
Updated 23 min 21 sec ago

Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam, on Jan. 23, 2021. (Pro News via AP)
  • Vehicles burned, businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station looted
  • A Covid-19 testing center was set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk

THE HAGUE: Protests against a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police and looting in cities across the country Sunday, authorities and reports said.
Police used water cannon and dogs in Amsterdam, public television NOS reported, after hundreds gathered to protest the curfew which is set to last until February 10 and is the country’s first since World War II.
In the southern city of Eindhoven, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. At least 30 people were arrested there, according to police.
A number of vehicles were burned and businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station were also looted, media reports said.
Dutch rail company NS called on travelers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said train circulation was interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
Eindhoven mayor John Jorritsma told reporters that if the country continued “down this path, then I think we are heading for civil war.”
Incidents were also reported in The Hague, Breda, Arnhem, Tilburg, Enschede, Appeldoorn, Venlo and Ruremond.
A Covid-19 testing center was set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk in the north of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening center in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.
Violators of the 9 p.m. to 4:30 am curfew, which Prime Minister Mark Rutte says is needed to bring case numbers down, face a 95-euro ($115) fine.
Exemptions are possible, in particular for people returning from funerals or those having to work, but on condition that they present a certificate.
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from Britain, South Africa and South America, and a cut in the number of guests allowed in people’s homes to one, from the previous limit of two.
New variants of the virus have led to deep concern in Europe, particularly a more infectious strain that first emerged in Britain.
The Netherlands was already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, with bars and restaurants having closed in October, and schools and non-essential shops shut since December.
Dutch lawmakers on Thursday approved Rutte’s curfew plan, though on condition that it begin half an hour later than the original 8:30 p.m. start time.
The move had faced criticism led by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who called it “careless” and “disproportionate.”
“I stand here for freedom. I lost it myself,” said Wilders, who has for years been under round-the-clock security after receiving death threats.
“I do not accept that we unnecessarily... introduce curfews while there are alternatives.”
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 over a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to govern until elections in mid-March.