Southeast Asia’s COVID-19 cases rise, Malaysia records another fatality linked to religious gathering

CNA – Malaysia reported 106 new coronavirus cases yesterday. This takes the national the total to 1,624 – the highest in Southeast Asia.

The country also reported another death linked to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 15.

Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the country’s 15th fatality was a 71-year-old Malaysian man from Melaka.

The man – Case 1,519 – was a close contact of another case who had attended a religious gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque.

The elderly man had a history of chronic illness and had received treatment at Hospital Pakar Sultanah in the town of Muar.

The Health Ministry said 43 of the new cases were linked to the mass religious gathering, which has already been connected to over 60 per cent of the total infections in Malaysia.

A total of 10 deaths, or 67 per cent of the fatalities, are linked to the religious gathering. The other five deaths have been linked to overseas travel.

The event, which took place from February 27 to March 1, was attended by 16,000 people. It has also led to infections in neighbouring countries including Brunei, Singapore and Cambodia. Some 64 patients are currently receiving treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU), with 27 of them needing ventilation support, while another 24 patients have been discharged.

A total of 183 patients have recovered from COVID-19 so far, the Malaysian ministry said.

A policeman holds a notice at a roadblock as they ensure that people abide by the movement control order in Ipoh, Perak state, Malaysia. (PHOTO: AP)

Singapore reported 49 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, of which 32 were imported infections. This takes the country’s total to 558 cases. Most of the imported infections had a travel history to the United Kingdom (UK), said Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) in its daily update.

Five other imported cases had been to the United States, while other cases had travelled to Malaysia, France, Indonesia and Australia.

Of the imported cases, 25 are Singapore citizens or permanent residents while five are long term visitor pass holders.

To date, a total of 156 cases have been discharged, including the two patients who died.

Seventeen patients are receiving treatment in the ICU and remain critically ill.

The MOH said on Monday that patients with COVID-19 who are “well and stable” will be transferred to selected private hospitals so that the public sector can have the capacity to manage more severe cases.

“As the number of COVID-19 cases rise globally and the virus spreads across the world, we expect the number of cases in Singapore to increase.

“As part of our emergency response plan, the Ministry of Health has already put in place plans to expand our hospital and clinical services capacities to deal with the increasing demand,” said the MOH in response to media queries.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will deliver a ministerial statement tomorrow regarding the government’s additional support measures for workers, businesses and households in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Facebook post last Thursday, Heng said the “supplementary budget” will support Singaporeans amid the outbreak, which has “inevitably taken a big toll on our economy”.

“This is a Budget to support Singaporeans to stay united and resilient. This is the first time that we are introducing a supplementary budget so soon after the main budget, reflecting how fast the situation has deteriorated over the past weeks,” he wrote.

Indonesia confirmed 107 COVID-19 cases yesterday, the biggest daily increase to date in the Southeast Asia, bringing the total number of cases to 686, said Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto.

Seven people had died of the disease as of yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths to 55, he said, adding 30 people had recovered from the virus.

 The Philippine Health Ministry confirmed 39 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total to 501.

The number of patients who have died from the virus is 33. Some 19 people have recovered from the infection, Philippine Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.

Restaurants in Vietnam’s business hub, Ho Chi Minh City, were ordered to close until March 31 to curb the spread of COVID-19 by the city’s ruling body yesterday.

Ho Chi Minh City has recorded 39 cases of the virus, most of which were imported from Europe, and has already closed cinemas, clubs, parlours and karaoke lounges since the virus outbreak began.

“Restaurants with a capacity of over 30 people across the 24 districts of the city must cease operations from 6pm on March 24, until March 31,” the city’s ruling body said in a statement.

The move has been taken because some infected people spread the disease at popular restaurants in the city, according to Vietnam’s Health Ministry.

In mid-February, Vietnam said all 16 of its confirmed cases had recovered, but it has since been battling with an influx of imported cases from overseas visitors and Vietnamese citizens escaping outbreaks elsewhere.

There are now 123 cases in Vietnam, but no reported deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Over 50,000 people are in quarantine.

The next 10-15 days will be decisive in Vietnam’s fight against the virus, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Monday.