Veteran politician from longest-ruling party UMNO risks starting his term with damaged credibility over the pandemic.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is under quarantine following close contact with a COVID-19 patient.
His office said in a statement on Monday it was unclear how long he would be in quarantine and did not indicate any results for a coronavirus test.
Ismail Sabri began self-isolating and will attend Tuesday’s official National Day celebrations virtually, it said, noting he missed the swearing-in ceremony of his new government on Monday.
Ismail Sabri was sworn in as prime minister earlier this month, succeeding Muhyiddin Yassin who resigned after failing to hold onto a narrow majority in Parliament.
He takes charge amid public anger over the handling of the pandemic, with a recent surge in COVID-19 cases to record highs and downgraded growth forecasts after the economy has been battered by extended lockdowns.
A total of 31 ministers and 38 deputy ministers took their oaths of office at the palace Monday. Ismail Sabri did not name a deputy but retained four senior ministerial posts created by Muhyiddin to keep factions in his Malay-majority government happy.
Many people applauded the appointment of popular former Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin – who was in charge of the vaccination programme – as the new health minister.
The Southeast Asian country has been successful in vaccinating a large percentage of its adult population – with 62 percent fully inoculated.
But at least six out of Malaysia’s 13 states have only fully vaccinated less than 50 percent of residents so far, according to the Straits Times newspaper.
It cited Ismail Sabri as saying these states are set to fully inoculate 50 percent of their adult population by the end of September at the “very latest”.
Daily COVID-19 cases have soared above 20,000 since August 5.
Malaysia has so far reported about 1.7 million coronavirus infections, and more than 16,000 deaths, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University in the US.