Malaysians panic buy days before lockdown

Malaysia's beginning a strict two-week lockdown starting Tuesday, and the country saw panic buying at supermarkets ahead of its start as the daily COVID-19 cases per capita there soar past India's.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a $9.7 billion emergency aid package the day before, aiming to boost healthcare capacity and give moratoriums on loans, grants for small businesses and subsidies for salaries.

Malaysia's economy was on the path to recovery in the first quarter - then, infections began to spike.

Major automakers like Toyota and Honda announced Tuesday they would temporarily halt production in Malaysia due to the new lockdown, which will only allow essential manufacturing and the service sector to continue operations.

The country has tried to step up its vaccination campaign, but fewer than 6% of Malaysians have received at least one vaccine dose - barely half the proportion in India.

Malaysia's COVID-19 surge reflects an alarming trend across Southeast Asia, where countries are struggling to combat a rise in cases and vaccination rollouts are slow.

Countries like Thailand and Vietnam had won praise for containing earlier waves of the virus.

However, Thailand has seen its COVID-19 death toll rise tenfold over the past two months, while Vietnamese officials detected a more contagious combination of the British and Indian variants over the weekend.

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