Malaysian king declares state of emergency to fight virus

Malaysian king declares state of emergency to fight virus

FILE PHOTO: This handout photo from Malaysia's Department of Information taken and released on May 18, 2020 shows Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wearing a face mask as he offers prayers during the opening ceremony for the third term of the 14th parliamentary session in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
FILE PHOTO: This handout photo from Malaysia's Department of Information taken and released on May 18, 2020 shows Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wearing a face mask as he offers prayers during the opening ceremony for the third term of the 14th parliamentary session in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)

Malaysia's king Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to fight a surge in coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm the country's healthcare system.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah "is of the opinion that the Covid-19 outbreak in the country is at a very critical stage and that there was a need for the emergency," said a statement from the national palace.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had requested an emergency be declared in a meeting with the King on Monday, the statement said.

It will last until Aug 1 but could be lifted earlier if the rate of new infections slows, it added.

An emergency declaration allows for the suspension of parliament and political activities at a time when Muhyiddin's 10-month old government looks increasingly unstable, and is likely to spark criticism he is undermining democracy.

It came a day after Muhyiddin announced strict new curbs across more than half the country, including ordering people to stay at home for all but essential purposes and the closure of most businesses.

He warned the healthcare system was "at breaking point".

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