Timeline: How the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded in Malaysia since January 2020


Malaysia’s COVID-19 cases crossed the 1 million mark on Jul 25.

As cases rose, the country repeatedly reported single-day records of new infections and fatalities.

Since the movement control order (MCO) was first imposed in March 2020, Malaysians have been through different phases of lockdown as the government grappled with the spread of COVID-19.

Here’s a recap of how the outbreak has evolved in the country so far:


Malaysia detected its first three COVID-19 cases on Jan 25, 2020 – three Chinese nationals from Wuhan who entered the country from Singapore.

The first wave of infections in Malaysia, from Jan 25 to Feb 15 last year, encompassed 22 cases. It was dealt with fairly quickly, through immediate isolation of the patients and treatment.

A major challenge came in the form of a mass religious gathering which was held at the Sri Petaling mosque near Kuala Lumpur from Feb 27 to Mar 1.

The event, attended by 16,000 people, eventually triggered a wave of COVID-19 infections across the country and formed what was dubbed the tabligh cluster. The attendees who contracted the virus during the event brought it back home to their respective states, resulting in a spike in infections nationwide.

The Perikatan Nasional government, which had just taken over federal administration from Pakatan Harapan, then imposed a lockdown dubbed movement control order in mid-March, closing its borders and banning interstate travel.

The move to act quickly and restrict people’s movement with strict protocols were key in halting the spread of infections.

Daily number of cases sank to single-digit figures in July and August. On Jul 1, Malaysia recorded zero local transmission for the first time since March. By the end of August, Malaysia had less than 10,000 cumulative cases, one of the lowest in the region.

But the third wave started in September through the Sabah state election. After the state polls, cases spiked and eventually hovered at four-digit figures daily.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin acknowledged that in spite of strict health protocols set by the Election Commission, compliance was very weak.

He noted that the number of cumulative cases in Sabah, which was 808 on nomination day on Sept 12, jumped by 91.5 per cent to 1,547 cases on polling day on Sept 26.

One month later on Oct 24, Sabah’s cumulative cases were 11,285.

Over at the peninsula, clusters also started forming among workplaces and dormitories of foreign migrant workers in the Klang Valley.

Glove maker Top Glove made global headlines after the Malaysian government announced that it opened 19 investigation papers into six subsidiaries of the company over offences involving workers’ dormitories.


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