Covid-19 recoveries exceed new daily cases in Malaysia – dpa international

Waiting area inside the traditional Chinese medicine section of Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Monday evening that 236 people have recovered from the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the highest daily total so far. The confirmed recoveries substantially exceed the 130 new infections diagnosed over the same period and were announcedduring a press conference where ministry officials jubilantly displayed signs emblazoned with “236.” Of Malaysia’s 3,773 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, 1,241 people have recovered, while 61 have died.
The rise in recoveries and flattening of new case numbers comes ahead of an April 10 decision by the government on whether to extend a lockdown aimed at containing the virus. The lockdown was imposed on March 18 after a sudden spike in cases, the number of which stood at just 83 one month ago.

Backlash prods Malaysia into banning beer brewing during Covid-19 lockdown

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KUALA LUMPUR — Heineken and Carlsberg will have to close their Malaysia-based breweries to comply with an ongoing lockdown, the Muslim-majority country’s government announced on Monday afternoon. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said during a press conference that the decision was taken after the government was criticized for allowing the factories to operate.  “Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp groups and many more were questioning why the Heineken and Carlsberg factories were still allowed to be open,” Ismail said. Both the youth wing of Bersatu, the party of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and the Parti Islam se Malaysia (PAS), which is part of the governing coalition, had questioned whether the breweries should be listed among the “essential” businesses allowed operate during the lockdown, which is aimed at stemming a recent surge in cases in Malaysia to 3,662

Singapore ups fiscal spend for a third time, aims soften economic impact of Covid-19 – dpa international

Singapore skyline over Marina Bay (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In a televised speech to parliament on Monday afternoon, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “solidarity budget” that will take government spending aimed at curbing the impact of coronavirus to over 40 billion dollars. Heng said the outlay aims “to save jobs and protect livelihoods of people” during an effective lockdown due to start tomorrow. All Singaporean adults are to receive a one-off handout worth 421 dollars (600 Singapore dollars) while some business levies will be waived or reduced. Monday marks the third time in six weeks that Heng has introduced extra fiscal measures to counter the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Despite economic risk, Singapore lockdown looms after Covid-19 surge – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Announcing an effective lockdown that will run for a month from April 7, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans on Friday afternoon that the country needs to “make a decisive move now” to stop the coronavirus. “We will close most workplaces except for essential services,” Lee said, touting the move as a “circuit breaker” aimed at interrupting a startling jump in infections over the past week. Singapore has seen the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, rise to 1,114. Five people have died, the latest fatality announced on Friday morning. Most of this week’s diagnoses have been described by the Health Ministry as “local,” after a period of weeks when most of the new cases originated in homebound Singaporeans and were labelled “imported.” “For half of these [new] cases we don’t know where or from whom they caught the virus,” Lee said

Malaysian trade slump sharpens central bank recession warning – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR —  New official data show Malaysian trade dropping significantly in February, adding weight to a central bank warning of a looming recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, said early on Friday that the country’s economy could contract by up to 2 per cent in 2020 due to the outbreak. According to the Department of Statistics and the Ministry for Trade and Industry, Malaysia’s trade in February was down 12.7 per cent compared to January. Although trade increased by 11.6 per cent when measured year-on-year, this year’s plunge is likely to continue while the coronavirus pandemic rages. On February 29, global reported cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that originated in China in late 2019, stood at just over 86,000, with 25 cases confirmed in Malaysia. 

Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases top 3,000, over 4,100 lockdown arrests – dpa international

Staff at a supermarket check-out in Kuala Lumpur, one of the types of businesses open during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry reported 208 new coronavirus cases on Thursday evening, taking the country’s total to 3,116, the highest in South-East Asia. The ministry acknowledged that Thursday’s rebound marked a setback after numbers earlier this week dropped from the more than 200 new daily cases seen last week. “We cannot expect zero cases of Covid infection in this country,” said ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah, during a televised press conference. Fifty people have died in Malaysia after being infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.Though Hisham expressed disappointment at the jump in cases from Wednesday’s 142, he said that 122 people were discharged from hospital on Thursday. Thursday’s numbers took Malaysia’s total recoveries from Covid-19 to 767.

Biggest daily jump sees coronavirus cases in Singapore hit 1,000 – dpa international

The Diabetes and Metabolism Center at Singapore General Hospital (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Wednesday night confirmed 74 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, representing the biggest one-day increase since the outbreak began. The city-state’s total caseload has now reached 1,000. Fifty-four of the newly-confirmed diagnoses were described by the ministry as “local.” The resurgence in cases with no recent overseas travel history reverses a trend of “imported” cases – mostly homebound Singaporeans.  “Our focus now has to be on our locally transmitted cases, especially the cases that are still popping up,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. 

Singaporean activist jailed for a week for questioning judges – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — A critic of the Singaporean government is being jailed for one week starting Tuesday for “scandalizing the judiciary” with a Facebook post that queried whether the courts operate independently of the government. “I do not recognise the legitimacy of the judgment and the law, both of which are unjust,” Jolovan Wham, a prominent social activist, said on Facebook on Tuesday, before surrendering to police to serve the sentence rather than pay a fine of 3,510 dollars (5,000 Singapore dollars) fine. Restrictions against criticising the courts have remained in place in Singapore since British colonial rule, along with significant curbs on freedom of speech.

Covid-19 to slam the brakes on Asia’s high-octane economies – dpa international

Evening traffic in Kuala Lumpur before the pandemic (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Countries across East Asia and the Pacific face recession and rising poverty as economies grind to a halt due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic. In a report published on Tuesday, the World Bank warned that “significant economic pain seems unavoidable” across what was one of the world’s fastest-growing regions before the outbreak, which has killed almost 38,000 people worldwide. Though East Asia’s developing economies expanded at an estimated 5.8 per cent in 2019, some countries were already struggling with the knock-on effects of the China-United States trade war before the virus emerged in China in late 2019. Now, according to the bank, a possible 2.8 per cent region-wide contraction looms should a sustained pandemic force lengthy lockdowns and constrict business worldwide.

Over 1,100 lockdown arrests as Malaysian coronavirus cases top 2,600 – dpa international

Food delivery motorcycles are about the most commonly-seen traffic in Kuala Lumpur during the virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has arrested at least 1,100 people for violating a lockdown aimed at curbing a recent spike in coronavirus cases to 2,626, the highest reported national total in Southeast Asia. During a Monday press conference streamed via Facebook, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that 828 people were detained on Sunday for breaching movement restrictions imposed on March 18. Police had earlier announced over 300 arrests for alleged violations such as jogging and playing football. One suspect, a 61-year-old cardiologist, told police that running should be permitted for health reasons. A video of the encounter went viral on Malaysian social media last week ahad of the accused pleading not guilty in court on Monday. Giving notice of further restrictions aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 35,000 worldwide, Ismail said Malaysia’s shops will reduce operating hours from Wednesday “All supermarkets or any premises selling essential items shall observe the new operation hours, which is from 8am to 8pm,” the minister said.