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Malaysia seeks to beef up health system as Delta variant rages

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By Reuters
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By Rozanna Latiff and Joseph Sipalan

KUALALUMPUR – Malaysia on Tuesday announced new measures to support its ailing public health system as the country saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant.

The Southeast Asian country reported 11,079 new infections on Tuesday, the third daily record seen in the past week, and 125 new deaths.

The surge comes even as Malaysia ramped up its vaccination programme and imposed stricter lockdown measures over the past month.

The outbreak has been largely driven by the Delta variant – now the dominant coronavirus strain in the country, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a news conference with other top health officials.

About 70% of new cases were reported in the capital Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, where hospitals have struggled with shortages of beds, ventilators and oxygen tanks.

The government has approved an additional 100 million ringgit ($23.86 million) for outsourcing activities where non-COVID-19 patients are moved from stretched public hospitals to private facilities, the officials said.

Authorities will also increase the number of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, and purchase more oxygen tanks and beds, among other measures.

Citing low testing rates, officials also warned that Malaysia’s infection figures could be much higher than reported and vowed to increase mass screening in the worst-hit areas.

Earlier on Tuesday, a COVID-19 vaccination centre was ordered to close for sanitisation after more than 200 volunteers and workers there tested positive over the weekend.

At 855,949 cases overall, Malaysia has one of Southeast Asia’s highest per-capita infection rates, but also one of its highest rates of inoculation. About 25% of its 32 million population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

($1 = 4.1910 ringgit)