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'Prepare for the worst'

by The Associated Press | June 4, 2021 at 3:38 a.m.
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sanitize a field during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Nowhere is Malaysia's worsening coronavirus surge more apparent than in the cemeteries around the capital.

The rising infections and deaths have alarmed health officials. They spiked again Wednesday with a record 7,478 new cases reported, pushing the country's tally to 533,367 -- a five-fold increase since the start of the year. Deaths have surpassed 2,300.

The toll is visible at cemeteries such as Nirvana Memorial Park, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah warned the country has to "prepare for the worst."

The government has resisted calls for a full lockdown -- fearing economic catastrophe -- but has shut all schools, prohibited dining in restaurants, and banned social activities and inter-state travel.

Business and shopping restrictions were increased Tuesday, and public transport has been halved.

Malaysia has given nearly 2.5 million of its 33 million people at least one dose of vaccine. But the virus is still spreading rapidly, with clusters growing from variants originating in South Africa and India.

That has sparked alarm in neighboring Thailand, which says it detected the South African variant from someone who crossed the border from Malaysia.

A health worker wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carries a coffin during the funeral for a COVID victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A health worker wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carries a coffin during the funeral for a COVID victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during a funeral for COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during a funeral for COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) wait for the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) wait for the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) carry a coffin during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sanitize during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sanitize during the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A health worker wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sanitises his colleague after the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A health worker wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sanitises his colleague after the funeral for a COVID-19 victim at Nirvana memorial, a Buddhist, Taoist and Christian cemetery in Semenyih, Malaysia, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Malaysia's latest coronavirus surge has been taking a turn for the worse as surging numbers and deaths have caused alarm among health officials, while cemeteries in the capital are dealing with an increasing number of deaths. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
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