Malaysian PM Muhyiddin announces an economic assistance package of RM15 billion as cases of COVID-19 soar

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (January 18) announced a new package of economic assistance worth RM15 billion (US$3.7 billion) to alleviate the effects of COVID-19.

Mr Muhyiddin said in a televised address that the PERMAI package, or the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat Security Assistance Package, enhances the existing measures in place to help Malaysians deal with the economic effect of COVID-19.

“A total of 22 initiatives will be implemented under PERMAI, and they are based on three main objectives – firstly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, secondly to protect the people’s welfare and thirdly to support business continuity,” said Mr Muhyiddin. 

The announcement came as Malaysia struggles to control its third wave of COVID-19 infections, taking the national estimate to more than 155,000 with four-digit daily rises in cases.

The health care system, the prime minister said, is at a breakpoint.

Last Tuesday, the day after the Prime Minister announced that five states, including Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Sabah, and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, would again come under a two-week Movement Control Order (MCO), Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah declared a state of emergency across the country.

Beginning Saturday, the northern state of Kelantan was then put under MCO restrictions, taking to six the total number of affected states.

Following an increase in new infections over the past few days, Sarawak is also introducing an MCO in the Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit districts.

In an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, a ban on interstate travel is in effect throughout the country until January 26.

The new economic package follows the implementation in November last year of an expansionary 2021 national budget, the country’s largest ever, aimed at ensuring the stability of individuals, market continuity and economic resilience in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Muhyiddin had said that the budget was a continuation from the four stimulus packages worth RM305 billion (US$73.2 billion) that were announced previously.

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