UPDATE 1-Malaysia reports 871 new coronavirus cases and seven more deaths

(Adds health ministry comments on infection rate)

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Malaysian health authorities reported 871 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, a record daily count, raising the country’s total infections to 20,498.

The Southeast Asian country, which imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, also recorded seven new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 187.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah told reporters the infection rate had dropped since a third wave of infections in the country began four weeks ago.

“We expect this third wave of infections to be more challenging. Although we are more prepared in terms of medical equipment, manpower and others, what is important is that we need to control (the spread) so that the infections in the community can be reduced,” he said. (Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by David Clarke)