In response to the surge of cases in March 2020, the Malaysian government led by Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin imposed a nationwide lockdown known as the Movement Control Order (MCO), which came into effect on 18 March 2020. The MCO, which was originally to be ended on 31 March 2020, was extended to early May 2020. By early May, the MCO had led to a gradual decline in daily infections. The government progressively relaxed lockdown restrictions in a staggered phase; beginning with the "Conditional Movement Control Order" (CMCO) on 4 May 2020, which allows most business sectors to be reopened under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs), followed by the "Recovery Movement Control Order" (RMCO) on 10 June 2020. The government had planned to end RMCO at the end of August 2020 but due to the continuous detection of imported cases, measures were extended until the end of the year, with several sectors remaining closed and strict travel restrictions from several countries remaining in place.
Due to a decline in new cases by early March 2021, the government lifted MCO restrictions in all states and federal territories. However, the restrictions were reinstated in several states from mid-April as infection cases rose again. With novel SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in Malaysia, and a record surge in daily COVID-19 cases and deaths, the government reintroduced a nationwide MCO once more, which began on May 12, 2021. The MCO was strengthened into a "total lockdown" from June 1 that was extended indefinitely, as the severe and continued spread of the virus led to Malaysia's healthcare system capacity being reached in some regions. Following the high vaccination rates in the adult population against COVID-19 and a decrease in the number of severe cases of the disease since September 2021, Malaysia announced its intention to transition to treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease by the end of October 2021, with more generalised restrictions being eased.
The Ministry of Health originally referred to this disease as the "2019 Novel Coronavirus". Some media referred to this disease as the "Wuhan Coronavirus". During the onset of the outbreak, the Malaysian media called it the "radang paru-paru Wuhan" in Malay, meaning "Wuhan Pneumonia". Then some media changed the name to "radang paru-paru koronavirus baru" (new coronavirus pneumonia) in Malay. The Ministry of Health and most media now refer to the disease as "COVID-19", as suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 February 2020.
Malaysia reported its first three cases on 25 January 2020, all of whom were Chinese nationals who had visited the country. By 30 January, the number of cases had risen to eight. In response, the Ministry of Health published guidelines on the virus and established designated hospitals in all of Malaysia's states and federal territories to manage any positive cases. Local authorities also advised Malaysians travelling to China to stay away from animal farms and markets in that country. Following several earlier suspected cases involving Chinese nationals, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments suspended all direct flights with China.
In response to a surge of cases originating in South Korea, the Malaysian Government imposed a ban on visitors from South Korea on 26 February, including foreign nationals who had visited Daegu and Cheongdo. Malaysia experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases following a four-day Tablighi Jamaatevent that was held at Kuala Lumpur's "Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling" between 27 February and 1 March 2020. By 20 March, 48% of the country's COVID-19 cases (3,347) had been linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster. In response to the rise in cases nationally, Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin announced that Malaysia would enter into a partial lockdown on 18 March 2020. On 17 March, Malaysia reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus: a 60-year-old priest from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kuching, Sarawak and a 34-year-old participant of the Muslim religious gathering in Sri Petaling from Johor Bahru, Johor.
On 3 April, a spike in 217 new cases was reported, bringing the total number to 3,333. The Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah attributed this spike to active detection in areas affected by Enhanced Movement Controlled Order, a stricter version of the MCO. In response to rising cases, the Government extended the movement control order until 28 April.
On 1 May, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the country's lockdown would be eased on 4 May, allowing most businesses to reopen while maintaining a ban on mass gatherings. From 21 May, a spike of cases occurred among detainees at immigration detention centres in Bukit Jalil and Semenyih, Selangor, causing the number of cases to rise to a total of 7,819 cases by 31 May. On 22 May, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin entered into quarantine for 14 days after an official who attended a post-Cabinet briefing the previous day tested positive for COVID-19.
On 1 June, a total of 7,857 cases were reported while the total number of recovered and deaths stood at 6,404 and 115 respectively. On 6 June, Director-General Noor Hisham encouraged members of the public to wear face masks following advice from the World Health Organization that it helped to reduce infections. By 30 June, there were 164 active cases, with a total of 8,639 cases. The number of recovered had risen to 8,534 while the death toll stood at 121.
On 1 July, there were 144 active cases with a total of 8,640 cases. A total of 8,375 had recovered while the death toll stood at 121. On 20 July, Prime Minister Muhyiddin announced that the Malaysian Government would consider making face masks compulsory following the emergence of 13 clusters after the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on travel and businesses the previous month. By 31 July, there were 207 active cases with a total of 8,976 cases. The number of recovered had risen to 8,644 while the death toll had risen to 125.
On 1 August, there were 213 active cases with a total of 8,985 cases. A total of 8,647 have recovered while the death toll stayed at 125. By 31 August, there were 160 active cases with a total of 9,340 cases. A total of 9,054 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 127.
At least two regional outbreaks have occurred since July 2020. In late July and August, several clusters emerged in Kedah and Sarawak. In September 2020, a major outbreak in Sabah initially detected in two prisons led to community spread within the state, a sharp increase to over 1,000 active cases, and the detection of infections throughout the country through returnees from Sabah following the 2020 Sabah state election. Malaysian authorities also attributed the surge of cases in Sabah to the entry of illegal immigrants from Indonesia. The country passed the 10,000 cases mark on 16 September 2020, and 11 deaths, primarily in Kedah and Sabah, were reported between the month ends of August and September. By 30 September, there were a total of 1,124 active cases with a total of 11,124 cases. A total of 9,967 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 136.
On 1 October, there were 1,334 active cases with a total of 11,484 cases. A total of 10,014 have recovered while the death toll had risen to 136. By 31 October, there were 10,051 active cases with a total of 31,548 cases. A total of 21,248 have recovered while the death toll had risen to 249.
On 18 November, the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia officially reached the 50,000 mark. The following day, the Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that over 9,000 of the country's COVID-19 cases were detected through the MySejahtera contact tracing app launched on 20 April. By 30 November, there were a total of 10,578 active cases with a total of 54,759 cases. A total of 54,759 had recovered while the death toll had risen to 360.
By 4 December, the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia had reached the 70,000 mark. By 10 December, the total number of cases had reached the 80,000 mark while the death toll had risen to 402. By 18 December, the total number of cases had exceeded 90,000. On 23 December, the Malaysian Health Ministry confirmed that it had identified a new COVID-19 strain dubbed the “A701B” strain, which is more infectious than usual and similar to a strain found in South Africa, Australia, and the Netherlands. By 24 December, the total number of cases had exceeded 100,000. By 31 December, Malaysia had reported a total of 113,010 cases, 88,941 recoveries, and 471 deaths.
By 6 January 2021, the number of recovered had exceeded 100,000. On the same day, the Director General reported there were 252 active clusters in Malaysia. On 7 January, a record number of 3,027 new cases were reported, bringing the total number to 128,465. By 25 January 2021, Malaysia ranked 29th in a list of countries with the highest number of infections over a two-week period published by Johns Hopkins University, with 48,625 new infections during that period. On 29 January, Malaysia exceeded the 200,000 mark, with a total number of 203,933 reported cases.
By 11 February, the total number of recoveries had reached 202,269 while the total number of cases had reached 254,988. On 18 February, the death toll exceeded the 1,000 mark, reaching 1,005 deaths. By 28 February, the total number of cases had exceeded the 300,000 mark, reaching 300,752. In addition, the total number of recoveries had reached 273,417 while the death toll had reached 1,130.
By 11 March, the total number of recoveries had exceeded the 300,000 mark, reaching 300,620. By 31 March, the total number of cases had reached 345,500, the number of recoveries 329,624, and the death toll 1,272.
By 28 April 2021, the total number of cases had exceeded the 400,000 mark, reaching 401,593. By 30 April, the total number of cases had reached 408,713, the number of recoveries 377,980, while the death toll had climbed to 1,506.
By 9 May 2021, the total number of recoveries had met the 400,000 mark, reaching 401,934. By 22 May, the total number of cases had reached the 500,000 mark, reaching 505,115. By 31 May, the total number of cases had reached 572,357, the number of recoveries 490,038, and the death toll 2,796.
By 2 June 2021, the total number of recoveries had exceeded the 500,000 mark, reaching 501,898. By 3 June, the national death toll had exceed the 3,000 mark, reaching 3,096. By 4 June, the total number of active cases had exceeded the 600,000 mark, rising to 603,122.
By 15 June, the death toll had exceeded the 4,000 mark, reaching 4,069 deaths. By 16 June, the total number of recoveries had exceeded 600,000 reaching 600,935. By 21 June, the total number of cases had exceeded 700,000, reaching 701,019. On 28 June, the death toll exceeded 5,000, reaching 5,001.
By 3 July, the total number of recoveries had met the 700,000 mark, reaching 700,215. By 8 July, the total number of cases had exceeded 800,000, reaching 808,658. By 10 July, the death toll had exceeded 6,000, reaching 6,067. By 17 July, the total number of cases had exceeded 900,000, rising to 905,851. By 21 July, the total number of recoveries had reached the 800,000 mark, rising to 806,857. On 26 July, the total number of cases exceeded the one million mark, reaching 1,013,438.
By 5 August, the death toll had reached the 10,000 mark, reaching 10,019. By 7 August, the total number of recoveries had reached the 1 million mark, reaching 1,009,343. By 31 August, the total number of cases had reached 1,746,254, the death toll 16,664, and the total number of recoveries 1,461,727.
By 14 September, the total number of cases exceeded the two million mark, reaching 2,011,440. By 27 September, the total number of recoveries exceeded the two million mark, reaching 2,005,942. By 30 September, the death toll had reached 26,335.
By 4 October, the number of active cases had dropped below the 150,000 threshold, reaching 142,860. By 15 October, the number of active cases had dropped below the 100,000 threshold to 97,505. By 31 October, the total number of cases had reached 2,471,642, the total number of recoveries 2,374,761 and the death toll 28,912.
On 21 November, Malaysia's death toll exceeded the 30,000 threshold, reaching 30,002. By 30 November, the total number of cases had reached 2,632,782, the total number of recoveries 2,537,204, and the death toll 30,425.