FILE PHOTO: Operation to decontamination passenger flights from Italy to Malaysia. Operations conducted by the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia. Image: Shutterstock

The rate of new coronavirus infections in Malaysia appears to be slowing amid month-long curbs on movement, a senior health official said on Wednesday, citing research by a government-backed think tank.

Malaysia, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, with 2,908 reported infections and 45 deaths, has imposed restrictions on travel and non-essential business until April 14. 

The number of reported cases so far is 1,321 fewer than earlier projected, according to a graph here released on Tuesday by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER). 

The graph also indicated that the number of cases was increasing at an average rate of 7.5% per day, far below MIER’s estimate of 12.5%. 

“As you can see, the line is starting to flatten,” the director-general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told a news conference while holding up the MIER graph. 

“So we hope in the next two weeks, we can flatten the projected curve even more.”  

The number of coronavirus infections has risen by generally 140-200 a day since the movement curbs were imposed two weeks ago. Noor Hisham had earlier said the government was preparing for a surge of about 1,000 cases daily.

Malaysia on Wednesday tightened the restrictions further, limiting operating hours for essential businesses such as supermarkets, food delivery services and public transport. 

It has also imposed full lockdowns in three locations where spikes in coronavirus cases were detected.

Reuters | KUALA LUMPUR

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