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Malaysia’s health ministry calls for ban on Eid travel amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Muslims wearing protective face masks offer Eid al-Adha prayers at a mosque, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s health ministry has proposed retaining a ban on interstate travel throughout the Eid festive season, state news agency Bernama reported on Thursday, as the number of COVID-19 infections in the country jumped to a five-week high.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has gradually eased movement curbs since embarking on a nationwide vaccination programme in February, though the government has yet to decide on whether to allow interstate travel ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival on May 13.

The Southeast Asian nation has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks, with the country reporting 2,148 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, the highest daily rise since March 5.

“As daily cases are still rising and not yet stable, this interstate travel needs to be postponed,” Health Minister Adham Baba was quoted as saying by Bernama.

Separately, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement authorities had identified two more cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain.

The variant, also known as B.1.1.7, was found in two Malaysians who had travelled to Poland last month and tested positive for the coronavirus upon their return on March 30, Noor Hisham said.

The latest cases bring the total number of infections involving the variant detected in Malaysia to five, he said.

Malaysia has reported a total of 367,977 coronavirus cases, including 1,363 deaths.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Ed Davies)

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