Malaysia on Tuesday declared a state of emergency to stem the spread of COVID-19, which could last until Aug. 1.

On the request of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, declared the state of emergency, a statement by the national palace said.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the view that the spread of COVID-19 in the country is at a critical stage and there is a need to decree an emergency proclamation,” it said.

The decision is taken in accordance with national interests and people’s safety as hospitals are facing difficulties in admitting new COVID-19 patients at intensive care units, the press release added.

Muhyiddin last October recommended the monarch to declare a COVID-19 emergency, but the request was denied.

In a televised speech later in the day, he said that under the emergency the parliament would be suspended and elections would not be held.

Malaysia brought an earlier wave of the novel disease under control with a strict three-month lockdown. But the situation began to change in September after an election in the Borneo state of Sabah.

Muhyiddin formed a government in March 2020 after the resignation of then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. He enjoys a thin majority.

The Southeast Asian country has reported more than 138,000 virus cases and 555 related deaths since the start of the outbreak. It is due to receive the first shipment of vaccines – from Pfizer-BioNTech – soon.

Authorities are also in negotiations with Oxford-AstraZeneca, Russia, China and the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative to procure doses for its population of over 32 million.

*Writing by Burak Dag in Ankara

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