Malaysia unveils $36 bil. in aid as lockdown extended indefinitely

Jun 29 , 2021. 12 hours ago – 21:42 KYODO NEWS

Streets are deserted in Kuala Lumpur on June 1, 2021, as Malaysia entered a nationwide lockdown. (Kyodo)

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced Monday a 150 billion ringgit ($36.2 billion) aid package to help people tide over the lockdown that has been extended indefinitely as the number of fresh COVID-19 cases shows no signs of abating.

In his televised address, Muhyiddin said the aid package includes 10 billion ringgit for cash handouts to middle-class and low-income households by the end of this year.

He also announced a six-month automatic loan moratorium, regardless of income level, and various funds and tax breaks for small and medium-sized enterprises and the hotel industry, among other measures.

“Even though the fiscal room is very limited, the National Alliance government will remain committed in prioritizing the wellbeing of the people,” Muhyiddin said.

The announcements came after the government extended the lockdown, scheduled to end Monday, for an indefinite period.

It has said lockdown rules will only be eased when daily COVID-19 cases fall below a weekly average of 4,000 and hospitals have more space to treat patients.

Over the past week, the country has on average confirmed over 5,000 new coronavirus cases, with double-digit deaths each day. Intensive care unit bed occupancy is almost full and only 6.4 percent of the population had completed two doses of vaccine as of Sunday.

The latest aid package announced by Muhyiddin is the fourth this year as the country battles with a surge in coronavirus infections that prompted the government to impose a lockdown on June 1.

Only essential manufacturing and services sectors are allowed to operate, and shopping malls, schools and public parks are closed.

Movements are also restricted, with only two people per household allowed to go out, and journeys between states and districts in the country banned.

This is the nation’s second lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, following one between March and May last year when the border was shut and the economy ground to a halt.

Cr. KYODO NEWS