Malaysia's king declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19

Kuala Lumpur (Photo under Creative Commons)

The king of Malaysia has declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday, January 12, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the parliament will be suspended for a stipulated period of time, and that elections would not be held during the emergency.

"Let me assure you, the civilian government will continue to function. The emergency proclaimed by the king is not a military coup and curfew will not be enforced," said Muhyiddin.

On Monday, Muhyiddin announced a nationwide travel ban and a 14-day lockdown in the capital Kuala Lumpur and five states, saying the healthcare system for the country of 32 million people was at a breaking point.

The number of new daily infections hit a record high last week, breaching the 3,000 mark for the first time. Total coronavirus cases passed 138,000 on Monday, with 555 deaths.

Malaysia's palace said Muhyiddin requested King Al-Sultan Abdullah to declare a state of emergency as a proactive measure to curb COVID-19.

The declaration will last until August 1 or earlier, depending on whether coronavirus infections have been brought under control.

"Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the opinion that the spread of COVID-19 is at a critical stage and that there is a need to declare a proclamation of emergency," the palace said in a statement.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy in which the king has a largely ceremonial role, carrying his duties with advice from the prime minister and cabinet. 

The monarch, however, also has the power to decide if an emergency should be declared, based on threats to security, economy or public order. - from media reports