Malaysia’s new prime minister misses cabinet swearing-in after COVID-19 contact

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Malaysia’s new prime minister missed the inauguration of his own cabinet Monday after coming into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus and being forced to self-isolate, his office said.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ministers headed to the national palace for a swearing-in ceremony before the king, two weeks after the previous government collapsed during infighting.

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But Ismail Sabri – himself inaugurated earlier this month – had to skip the occasion after the virus contact, his office said in a statement, without giving further details.

He will also have to virtually join celebrations Tuesday to mark Malaysia’s National Day.

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The new cabinet mainly compromises ministers from the previous government, prompting concerns they will be no better at combatting a fierce COVID-19 wave than their widely criticized predecessors.

Ismail Sabri was appointed by the king after Muhyiddin Yassin quit when he lost his parliamentary majority, and during growing public anger at the government’s pandemic response.

He has reclaimed the premiership for scandal-plagued party the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), three years after they lost it at landmark elections.

Malaysia has been hit hard by the highly contagious Delta variant, reporting around 20,000 cases a day in recent weeks as well as hundreds of deaths.

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