Malaysia's king approved a coronavirus emergency declaration, delaying the country's general election and giving an extended reprieve to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah's declaration suspended the national parliament and state legislatures for an unspecified period of time. No elections can be held during the emergency either, which could last until Aug. 1.
But the move should not be considered a "military coup," Muhyiddin said during a televised speech, adding that his civilian government will remain in charge during the emergency, according to news reports.
Even so, the declaration comes as the country's largest political party, the United Malays National Organization, threatened to withdraw support from Muhyiddin and to force an early general election.
"Let me assure you, the civilian government will continue to function. The emergency proclaimed by the king is not a military coup and curfew will not be enforced," Muhyiddin said.
Malaysia, like many other countries around the world, is experiencing record numbers of daily coronavirus cases that could stress the nation's health care system to the breaking point, officials said.
The country of roughly 32 million people is set to enter a 14-day lockdown covering the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and five states. A nationwide travel ban has also been implemented.
Muhyiddin said daily coronavirus cases in Malaysia could jump to 8,000 by the end of May if the country didn't enter a lockdown to limit the spread. The country also found its first case of a highly infectious virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, the nation's health officials reported Monday. The patient tested positive on Dec. 28.