Malaysia’s king declared a state of emergency on Tuesday to curb an increase in coronavirus cases, suspend parliament, close non-essential businesses and lockdown multiple states and areas, including the largest city, Kuala Lumpur.

The urgency declaration could last until August 1, and some critics said the main beneficiary would be Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the head of an unelected government who has barely stayed in power for months.

Calling on the king to make the statement, Mr Muhyiddin went on television to claim the emergency measure to contain the virus was necessary – and that it was not about extending his political career.

“I assure you that civil government will continue to function,” he said. “The emergency announced by the king is not a military coup.”

Mr Muhyiddin promised to hold a general election after the virus was brought under control.

Malaysia was mostly successful in containing the virus last year, but the number of infections spiked in October, reaching a daily high of more than 3,000 new cases on Thursday. The increase was caused in part by an election campaign in Sabah state and an outbreak among migrant workers. The government reported a total of more than 141,000 cases and 559 deaths on Tuesday.

Mr. Muhyiddin came to power in March after the previous government collapsed. He formed a new coalition and the King appointed him Prime Minister without a parliamentary vote. Opponents have since asked whether he has the support of a majority of Parliament’s 222 members.

Now the king’s declaration means that no parliamentary vote or general election can be held for more than six months while the virus persists.

James Chin, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania, said the declaration gave Mr. Muhyiddin exceptional powers, including the power to pass laws that override existing ones and use the military for policing.

“Politically, he will benefit most from this Covid emergency,” he said. “This will give him what he wants without Parliament reviewing it.”

Other global developments:

  • Taiwan Two locally transmitted coronavirus infections were reported on Tuesday: a doctor and a nurse at a hospital in the north of the island that treats coronavirus patients. They are Taiwan’s first locally transmitted cases since December 22, when the first such case was reported since April.

  • The highest drug authority in the European Union said it would evaluate the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University “under an accelerated schedule” after receiving an application for emergency approval of the drug.

  • The leader of the German state of Bavaria has urged health workers to fulfill their “civic duty” by vaccinating and has urged the government to consider making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for medical workers in some cases. And about half of the employees at Charité, Germany’s largest research hospital, have, according to Dr. Andrej Trampuz, department head of the facility, refused to receive vaccination shots.

  • Because of the high number of infections, Berlin Residents will be prevented from traveling more than 9 miles outside of the city under new rules agreed by German lawmakers. The travel distance within Berlin is not limited.

  • A couple out walking in Sherbrooke on Saturday night Quebec, said police they are maintaining a new overnight curfew because the woman is keeping her crawling husband on a leash like a dog, CTV News reported. People who walk their dogs are excluded from the provincial curfew, which runs from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., as are key workers and those seeking medical care. The couple were fined C $ 1,500 each. Provincial leader François Legault said Monday that over the weekend 740 people were fined for violating the curfew, the first of its kind in Canada.


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