KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — All federal Cabinet members and deputy ministers will forfeit their salaries for three months starting June as part of the government effort to battle the pandemic, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced this evening.

Instead, he said their salaries will be channelled into the RM40 billion Pemerkasa Plus aid initiative targeted at mitigating the effects of the impending “total lockdown” that starts tomorrow.

“I would like to convey the support of all ministers and deputy ministers by not paying their salaries for three months starting June 2021,” Muhyiddin said in a special address delivered on national television.

“The salaries that will not be paid will go into the Disaster Trust Fund Account as a means to finance matters related to Covid-19,” he added.

From the total RM40 billion fund, only RM5 billion will be in direct fiscal support.

Muhyiddin’s Cabinet has come under increasing scrutiny over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the last two weeks following the rapid surge of infections.

Daily cases have reached unprecedented levels after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays, at one point close to 10,000 before subsiding back to below 7,000 today.

The spikes have prompted the government to enforce a two-week “total lockdown” starting June 1.

Critics have blamed the surge on poor enforcement and accused the government of negligence.

The prime minister announced tonight an additional RM40 billion worth of aid to help stem the fallout from the third movement control order (MCO), of which RM5 billion will be in direct fiscal injection.

The relief package, dubbed Pemerkasa Plus, will seek to beef up the healthcare system, continue previous welfare programmes and help businesses weather the lockdown, as he vowed to “balance lives and livelihood”.

Among other spending measures he unveiled was an additional RM1 billion in healthcare spending, extending wage subsidies for another month and the loan moratorium given since last year when the country was put under the first MCO.

The first MCO lasted nearly the entire second quarter of 2020, and was estimated to have bled RM2.5 billion a day.

* Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an error which has since been amended.