Malaysia lockdown pressures authorities funds, says minister

People wearing face masks walk in front of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 29, 2021.

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Malaysia’s public finances will be “severely constrained” as a surge in Covid-19 infections has forced the country into lockdown again, Minister of International Trade and Industry Mohamed Azmin Ali told CNBC on Friday.

The Malaysian government has announced a new stimulus package worth 40 billion Malaysian ringgit (approximately $ 9.68 billion) to help businesses and households tackle yet another round of “total lockdown” that began Tuesday.

This latest stimulus came on top of six previous packages worth a total of 340 billion Malaysian ringgit (around $ 82.31 billion) launched last year. The government said the additional spending could push the budget deficit over its target in 2021 of 6% of the gross domestic product.

“Of course this puts a heavy strain on our fiscal space, but here too … we have no other options than to examine different options to support industry, SMEs and also the informal sector so that they can continue their economic activities”, Azmin told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia. “

During the “total lockdown” from June 1st to 14th, companies offering essential services will remain open, while certain segments of manufacturing will be able to operate at reduced capacity.

Azmin and his ministry have been criticized by Opposition politician and the Malaysian public ensuring that some non-essential businesses – such as a furniture company and a brewery – can operate during the lockdown, according to media reports.

In a statement made on ThursdayAzmin said his ministry is not the only one issuing permits to companies that have requested to stay open during the lockdown. He added that according to the statement translated in Malay by CNBC, only 128,150 companies – with 1.57 million employees – had received approval, out of 586,308 that applied for approval.

Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia has deteriorated significantly Although the government imposed lockdowns of varying degrees over the past year.

Last week, the Southeast Asian country reported record infections five days in a row and on Wednesday recorded the highest daily death toll since early 2020. In total, Malaysia has confirmed more than 595,000 Covid cases and 3,096 deaths, data from the Ministry of Health showed on Thursday.

The Malaysian Director General for Health, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged people to stay home to break the chain of transmission. Noor Hisham, a leading figure in the country’s fight against Covid, warned that the health system could be crippled if cases continue to increase.

Azmin said the government is accelerating its national vaccination campaign. He explained that the strategy is to give more than 200,000 doses a day by the end of this month and double that amount over the next month.

“We assume that the vaccination target of 80% will be achieved by August 2021,” said the minister.

But Malaysia Vaccination progress is slow. Only 6.2% of the country’s 32 million inhabitants have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, according to the statistics page Our World in Data.

EU steps up vaccine exports guidelines and pressures AstraZeneca over deliveries

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON – The European Union has tightened strict regulations on the export of Covid vaccines while putting pressure on it AstraZeneca to deliver more footage to the region.

It is because the sluggish introduction of vaccines in the region is under scrutiny, even as the EU continues to export millions of coronavirus shots abroad.

In order to gain a stronger negotiating position with pharmaceutical companies that fail to meet delivery targets, the bloc has expanded its strict rules on vaccine exports.

Before approving shipments from Covid-19 The EU will examine whether the recipient country has any restrictions on vaccines or raw materials and whether it is in a better epidemiological situation.

“We want to make sure that Europe gets its fair share of vaccines. Because we have to explain to our citizens that companies that export their vaccines around the world are fully committed to their commitments and are not taking any risks.” Security of supply in the European Union, “said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Thursday.

We all know we could have been a lot faster if all the pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts.

Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

The data released on Thursday showed that the EU has exported 77 million cans of Covid shots to 33 countries around the world since December. At the same time, 88 million were delivered to EU countries, of which 62 million were managed. As such, the EU has exported more shots than it has previously given its citizens.

However, some EU countries have raised concerns about stricter export regulations, with countries like Belgium and the Netherlands wanting supply chains to remain open. There is a risk that stopping vaccine exports will trigger a trade war and other parts of the world – which produce the raw materials needed to make vaccines – stop shipping to Europe.

Pressure on AstraZeneca

The EU has also quarreled with the Swedish-UK drug maker over not firing as many Covid shots as the bloc expected.

The 27 nations waited for 90 million doses of this vaccine in the first quarter and 180 million in the second quarter of 2021. However, AstraZeneca said that due to manufacturing issues, only 30 million doses can be dispensed by the end of March and 70 million between April and June.

The reduced delivery targets are a problem for EU countries, some of which wanted more of this vaccine as it is cheaper and easier to store than others. Further delivery delays to Europe could affect the broader rollout plans.

“We all know we could have been much faster if all pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts,” said von der Leyen on Thursday.

During a press conference, she added that AstraZeneca “needs to catch up, respect the treaty with European member states, before it can export vaccines again”.

A deal with the UK

The EU’s stricter export regulations could become a problem especially for the UK, which has received vaccines from the EU. The vaccination rate is higher than that of the block based on the number of first doses given.

European Commission figures show the UK has received 21 million doses of vaccine block-made – the highest share of EU exports yet. The UK has so far given its population 31 million doses of Covid-19 syringes, suggesting that around two-thirds of the vaccines used in the UK come from the EU.

“We discussed what else we can do to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between the UK and the EU on Covid-19,” the two sides said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps that we can take in the short, medium and long term to create a win-win situation and expand the supply of vaccines to all of our citizens.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference on Thursday that a vaccine deal between the EU and Great Britain could be announced on Saturday.