KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – Malaysia said it had confirmed three cases of coronavirus infection yesterday, the first in the Southeast Asian country.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the three individuals were related to the 66-year-old man that was confirmed by Singaporean health authorities to have tested positive for the virus.
On Friday, Malaysia’s Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye said eight Chinese nationals who were in close contact with the first person to test positive for the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore had entered Malaysia and were being quarantined in a hotel in Johor Bahru.
The three infected patients are now being monitored at the Sungai Buloh hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
“The three here are the wife, 65, and two grandchildren (ages two and 11) of the man tested positive in Singapore,” said Dr Dzulkefly.
He added the eight people were transferred from Johor to Sungai Buloh hospital because the testing for the virus was carried out at the National Public Health Laboratory, which is situated there.
In explaining the chain of events, Dr Dzulkefly said the family had travelled from Guangzhou to Singapore on January 22.
“The 66-year old man and his son who showed symptoms and were tested positive for the virus in Singapore were then admitted to the hospital there,” he said.
“Our ministry was alerted by the Singapore Health Ministry that nine other people travelled with the 66-year old. These were his wife, his son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren and another family of four.
“We were then able to reach out to the remaining eight who had made their way to Johor Bahru,” he said.
He explained that all eight who were asymptomatic had to undergo throat swabs and that the samples were sent to the National Public Health Laboratory.
Five people, including the mother of the two infected children, tested negative.
“Four of the five tested negative have been sent back to China while the mother of the two children is staying back to look after her family,” he said.
Separately, Dr Dzulkefly said there has been a total of 11 suspected cases of new coronavirus in Malaysia.
“Of that, 10 have been confirmed negative while one who is a Malaysian with a travel history to China has been admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and is awaiting laboratory test results.
“From the total 11, eight were Malaysians, two were Chinese nationals and one was a Jordanian,” he said.
On the growing concern of the spread of the virus, Dr Dzulkefly said he has spoken to the Home Ministry as well as the Prime Minister on blocking Malaysians from leaving to China.
“As it stands, flights to Wuhan has been cancelled and we are discussing possibilities of having all flights to China cancelled,” he said.
The newly identified coronavirus can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases. It is still too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.
Authorities in China announced the number of cases had surged to nearly 1,300 – the majority of which were in Hubei.
Health officials in the province also revealed that 15 new deaths took place in Wuhan, bringing the total number of fatalities to 41 since the outbreak began.The disease has spread to 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Wuhan and 13 other cities in Hubei have been locked down in an unprecedented quarantine effort aimed at containing the deadly respiratory contagion, which has spread to several other countries.