Malaysia urged not to arrest migrants who take Covid-19 test – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Concerns are growing that as Malaysia’s coronavirus death toll rises, migrant workers who have risked potential exposure are not being tested due to fear of arrest. The Malaysian government has stated that that undocumented migrants and refugees will not be detained if they come forward to be screened for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. However the pledges have been criticized as belated and insufficient by organizations that assist some of Malaysia’s estimated 3 million migrant or expatriate workers. Gurdial Singh Nijar, president of Hakam, the National Human Rights Society, said on Tuesday that the government should issue public directives to police and immigration officials, to further reassure migrants, who might otherwise fear “harassment or adverse consequences.”

Singapore to close pubs, cinemas as imported coronavirus cases rise – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Tuesday announced a range of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, with “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs to be shuttered until April 30. The measures were announced as the ministry reported that 49 more people were diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. Two people have died in Singapore after contracting the disease. Thirty-two of the new cases were categorized as “imported,” 27 of which were linked to a recent travel history to Britain, which on Monday announced a lockdown aimed at curbing its own spread of the virus.

Producers say Malaysia’s lockdown could cause medical gloves shortage – dpa international

Inside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall during Malaysia's anti-virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Manufacturers in Malaysia, the world’s biggest source of rubber gloves, warned on Monday that a government-imposed lockdown could result in a worldwide shortage of the protective equipment needed in combatting the coronavirus pandemic. The government has put the country under lockdown until the end of the month, forcing most businesses to close except for “essential” services. However the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA), an industry body, said its members have been forced by the lockdown to operate at half their usual capacity. The restrictions, the association said, have “led to a shortfall of gloves around the world,” prompting the group to urge the Malaysian government “to allow the rubber glove industry to operate at 100 per cent so that we can meet the surge in demand for rubber gloves from many parts of the world.”

Singapore’s schools reopen despite pandemic, bucking global trend – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s schools and kindergartens reopened as scheduled on Monday after a holiday, a day after the government announced a ban on visitors due to the pandemic. The reopening comes as the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, continues to increase in Singapore, with 32 new cases announced on Sunday for a total of 455. Two people have died. That number is relatively low compared with countries in Europe, the pandemic’s “epicentre” according to the World Health Organization, where widespread school closures have been ordered in recent weeks

Malaysias’s Covid-19 death toll hits double figures as army deploys – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Sunday evening that a tenth person has died in the country after contracting Covid-19, the respiratory condition caused by the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed about 13,000 people around the world. The Health Ministry stated on Twitter that the tenth fatality was a 74-year-old man who was among an estimated 15,000 people who attended an Islamic ceremony on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in late February. Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said during an online-only press conference that doctors had diagnosed 123 new cases of the virus since Saturday, taking the country’s total to 1,306, the third-highest in the Asia-Pacific region after China and South Korea. 

Coronavirus forces trade and travel hub Singapore to close borders – dpa international

The Gardens By The Bay are one of Singapore's main tourist attractions (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A ban on tourists announced by Singapore on Sunday is the latest in a series of border closures aimed at stopping a coronavirus pandemic that looks set to send the global economy into a tailspin. Citing a “heightened risk of importation of Covid-19 cases,” the Health Ministry stated that the only non-nationals allowed in from 11:59 pm (1559 GMT) on Monday will be work permit holders in “essential sectors” such as health care. The ministry said that 80 per cent of the city-state’s recently confirmed cases were “imported,” with around half coming from Europe, the “epicentre” of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The spike in imported cases mirrors recent trends across Asia, with China, Hong Kong and Vietnam among the countries reporting such rises.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 deaths up to eight as caseload nears 1,200 – dpa international

Woman walks past a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur after the government imposed a 2-week anti-virus lockdown on March 18 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s coronavirus deaths jumped to eight on Saturday, officials announced, as the number of cases in the country rose by 153 to 1,183. The Health Ministry stated said that two of those who died on Saturday had attended an Islamic ceremony staged in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts in late February along with an estimated 15,000 others.

Singapore reports first coronavirus deaths as case numbers rise across Southeast Asia – dpa international

People wearing facemasks inside a Kuala Lumpur mall on March 17, the day before the start of an anti-virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned Singaporeans on Saturday to expect more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak after the city-state’s first fatalities were announced earlier in the day.

“As we get more COVID-19 cases, more patients will need ICU [intensive care unit] care, and we must brace ourselves for more losses,” Lee said in a Facebook post.

Earlier Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced the deaths of a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man who had been diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. “We are deeply saddened by their passing,” Gan said, explaining that the woman had several medical conditions and was admitted to hospital a month ago with pneumonia.

Malaysian army called in to support lockdown as cases top 1,000 – dpa international

Hand sanitser sold out inside a pharnacy in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia announced 130 new positive coronavirus diagnoses on Friday, taking the country’s total to 1,030 as the the government mobilized the army to help enforce social restrictions. Forty-eight of the new cases have been linked to an Islamic ceremony held in late February that was attended by an estimated 15,000 people, the Health Ministry said. The gathering has largely been the source of Malaysia’s huge surge in cases from one week ago, when the tally was 197. Malaysia now has the third-highest caseload in the Asia-Pacific region, after China – where the pandemic originated in late 2019 – and South Korea.

Malaysian ex-leader Mahathir in isolation after possible virus contact – dpa international

Mahathir Mohamad attending a June 2015 conference in Kuala Lumpur in support of the Rohungya, a mostly-Muslim minority from Myanmar (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, the 94-year-old who was the world’s oldest prime minister before resigning last month, has placed himself in two weeks of self-quarantine after meeting a lawmaker who subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. In a statement broadcast on television on Thursday evening, Mahathir said that it was important to be “disciplined” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. “However, thank God, it is not so hard for me,” said Mahathir, who was a medical doctor before being first elected as a member of parliament in 1964.