125 new Covid-19 cases — 95 linked to tabligh gathering

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 553, making Malaysia the worst-hit SE Asian country to date

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR / pic by ARIF KARTONO

MALAYSIA recorded 125 new cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) yesterday, most of which were linked to the recent “tabligh” gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur attended by more than 16,000 people from several countries.

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 553, making Malaysia the worst hit South-East Asian country to date, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said.

“According to preliminary investigations, out of the 125 new cases reported yesterday, a total of 95 positive Covid-19 cases were related to the religious assembly cluster at the Jamek Mosque at Sri Petaling,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

As of Monday, 12 cases are critically ill in intensive care and in need of respiratory assistance, up from nine the day before.

“In Malaysia, there has been a significant increase in Covid-19 cases over the last week.

“Considering the current situation, the Ministry of Health (MoH) would like to inform that we have entered the final containment stage, which is late containment,” he said, adding that in the final stages, his ministry aims to curb the spread of the virus from becoming more serious in the country.

About 14,500 Malaysians and 1,500 foreigners attended the religious gathering between Feb 27 and March 1, 2020.

As of Sunday, 45 of the 50 cases in Brunei have been linked to the religious gathering.

Meanwhile, MoH is also preparing to enter the mitigation phase.

According to Dr Adham, the steps taken so far include making Sungai Buloh Hospital an “admitting hospital”, specifically for positive Covid-19 cases; enhancing the capacity and capabilities of the laboratory to carry out virus detection; identifying quarantine centres around the country; and collaborating with non-governmental organisations and private facilities for Covid-19 case management.

To contain the spread of the virus, all gatherings including international meetings, sports, social and religious events would be cancelled or postponed until after April, according to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

MoH has also advised citizens to postpone travels to regions or cities declared to be infected with the outbreak, especially in the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran.

In Sarawak, where the number of Covid-19 positive cases increased from 20 to 34 yesterday, the state government declared that all foreign and domestic visitors and returning Sarawakians will be issued with a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN).

The relevant agencies will monitor the SHN holders through random visits, phone calls and modern technology application.

All Sarawak government official functions involving more than 50 persons will be cancelled or postponed until further notice while school holidays are extended, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said.

Elsewhere in the Asean region, Singapore is the second most-affected country after Malaysia with 243 (as at press time) confirmed cases.

The number of cases in Indonesia increased to 134 yesterday, while Thailand had 114, the Philippines 140, Vietnam 57 and Brunei Darussalam 50, according to official data (as at press time).

The spread of the virus outside China, where there were 90,232 cases, has been rapid in recent weeks.

The World Health Organisation announced recently that Europe has become the epicentre of a coronavirus pandemic, with Italy recording the highest number of cases (24,747) outside of China, with 1,809 deaths as of yesterday.

In total, 6,526 deaths linked to the Wuhan-originated virus were reported.

Out of the 171,112 cases worldwide, 77,792 have recovered.