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Health News

Malaysian PM quarantines after minister tests positive for COVID-19

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday he would go into quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a minister who had tested positive for COVID-19.

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The 73-year-old premier said he had been at a meeting on Saturday with religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri to discuss the country’s rising number of coronavirus infections.

Zulkifli tested positive two days later on Monday, the prime minister said. He added that all his own tests so far had come out negative.

Other senior officials at the same meeting included the security minister, the health ministry’s director general and the chiefs of the police and defence forces, state news agency Bernama reported. Everyone who attended would be tested, the health ministry said.

The Southeast Asian country has seen a steady climb in coronavirus cases following last month’s election in the state of Sabah - the site of an early cluster of cases. Malaysia reported 432 new cases on Monday, a new daily record.

Muhyiddin, Zulkifli and other ministers all went to Sabah to campaign during its election and were criticised for not going into quarantine after returning. They have attended several public events since.

The government has also drawn criticism for not enforcing mandatory two-week quarantine for everyone returning from Sabah. Only those who test positive for the virus were required to isolate.

Muhyiddin, who underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2018, said on Monday his most recent test on Sept. 29 had been negative.

“I will continue to work from home and use video conferencing for meetings that I need to chair,” he added.

Muhyiddin is currently facing a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who last month said he has secured a parliamentary majority to oust Muhyiddin. The premier currently has a razor-thin majority in parliament.

Anwar has to convince King Al-Sultan Abdullah that he has the numbers to form a government. He is waiting to meet the monarch, who on Friday was discharged from a hospital following treatment for food poisoning and sports injuries.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies and Andrew Heavens

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