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Malaysia imposes restrictions in capital as virus cases rise

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 (Reuters) - Malaysia on Wednesday imposed movement restrictions in the capital Kuala Lumpur due to a rising number of COVID-19 infections, adding to lockdowns that have been implemented across the country.

The capital will be subjected to some lockdown measures from Friday for two weeks, including a ban on social activities, dining indoors, and inter-district travel, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement.

Several parts of the surrounding Selangor state, Malaysia's richest region, will also go into lockdown later this week.

Malaysia has seen a resurgence in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with the country reporting 3,744 new cases on Wednesday. It has now seen a total of 424,376 cases.

The Southeast Asian nation began a COVID-19 vaccination drive in February with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac shots. On Wednesday, it launched a parallel inoculation programme for people who volunteered to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine amid public fears over its safety.

This month, Malaysia also detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India.

It has banned flights to and from India and prohibited travellers from any Indian destination from entering the country to help prevent the spread of the new variant.

On Wednesday, Ismail Sabri said Malaysia will also ban entry of nationals from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, on top of a ban on Indian citizens.

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu, writing by A. Ananthalakshmi, editing by Mark Heinrich)