Malaysia recovering from coronavirus, health ministry believes – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health announced 31 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase since March 12 and a tally that prompted a leading health official to suggest the country is “entering the recovery phase.” Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said that Malaysia is on track to emulate neighbouring Thailand, which has a population more than twice as big, by seeing new cases drop to below 10 by next week. Malaysia has “succeeded in flattening the curve,” Hisham said during a press conference, adding that he believes that the country’s Movement Control Order, the official name for a lockdown imposed on March 18, is working. Malaysia’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 stand at 5,851, just over a third of smaller neighbour Singapore’s total, while 100 people have died in the country after being infected. Almost 70 per cent of the total infected in Malaysia have recovered, according to the Ministry of Health. Despite the drop in daily new cases to an average of 53 over the past week, the government has extended the lockdown to May 12. “Let’s stay disciplined and deal with it now for our own convenience in the future,” Defence Minister Ismail Sabri said during a separate Tuesday press conference, arguing that is preferable to retain the lockdown rather than have to re-impose it should infection numbers rise again.

Singapore’s Covid-19 tests hint at huge number of migrant cases – dpa international

Inside Singapore General Hospital (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday that 21,000 foreign workers have been tested for the new coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. Of that total of 21,000, Ministry of Health statistics released on Sunday showed 11,419 positive test results, numbers that suggest half the roughly 320,000 workers, many of who sleep 10-20 to a room in crowded dormitories, could be infected.  The 5.8 million-population city-state had confirmed 14,423 cases of Covid-19 by Monday afternoon, meaning that around 80 per cent of the city-state’s cases are among foreign workers who live in the dormitories. Of Monday’s 799 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, “the vast majority” were in the dormitories, according to the Ministry of Health. Singapore had just 1,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases at the start of April but imposed a lockdown, or “circuit breaker,” on April 7 after case numbers surged in the dormitories.

Malaysian government criticized for blocking Rohingya refugees – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government is facing domestic censure for turning back 200 Rohingya refugees who sought to enter the country during the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the Malaysian Bar Council, a lawyers’ organization, said it was “deeply disheartened” by the government’s refusal to allow a boatload of Rohingya disembark at Langkawi, a Malaysian island, on February 16, describing the pushback as a violation of international legal norms against turning away refugees.  On Thursday, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged authorities to allow refugee boats to dock. The Rohingya are a minority Muslim ethnic group that has been subjected to what the United Nations describes as “genocide” at the hands of the military in Myanmar, their home country.

Coronavirus and travel restrictions set to ravage Asia’s airlines – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — An industry body representing nearly 300 airlines warned on Friday that carriers in the Asia-Pacific region could see business drop by half this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which includes 290 airlines among its members, said on Friday that the sector faces a revenue drop of 113 billion dollars due to a pandemic that has killed an estimated 190,000 people worldwide. Airlines in the region face “a 50-per-cent fall in passenger demand in 2020 compared to 2019,” the IATA stated, warning of catastrophic knock-on impacts in related sectors. “11.2 million jobs are at risk, including those that are dependent on the aviation industry, such as travel and tourism,” according to Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Singapore-based Asia-Pacific vice-president.

Malaysia to extend Covid-19 lockdown even as infection numbers decline – dpa international

Not much traffic on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, six weeks into a lockdown which is slowing the spread of the new coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — During a televised speech on Thursday night to mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that a lockdown aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until May 12. Although Malaysia’s new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, have dropped to well below 100 a day over the past week – and recoveries among the infected have risen to 63 per cent of the 5,603 confirmed total – Muhyiddin did not rule out extending the restrictions beyond mid-May. “You may not be able to celebrate Hari Raya (the holiday marking the end of Ramadan) in your kampung (village),” the prime minister warned. The lockdown, known officially as a Movement Control Order, was first imposed on March 18 and has now been extended into a fourth two-week phase.

APEC says states should cut tariffs on medical gear during pandemic – dpa international

Hand sanitiser dispenser inside a café in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — The 21 member-states of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation body (APEC) should “consider the elimination or reduction” of tariffs on medical equipment needed to fight the new coronavirus pandemic, the group’s Singapore-based secretariat said on Wednesday. Warning of a “severe shortage” of “life-saving products” such as  face masks, hand soap, sanitizers and personal protective equipment (PPE), the secretariat said that its members – including China, Japan and the United States, the world’s three biggest economies – could agree to “an APEC-wide standstill.” According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the average tariff on “protective supplies used in the fight against Covid-19” is 11.5 per cent.

Surge in migrant worker Covid-19 cases continues as Singapore’s total tops 10,000 – dpa international

Outside Lucky Plaza in Singapore, a meeting place for Filipino workers living in the city-state (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported 1,016 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the national total to 10,141. All but 15 of the new cases were described by the ministry as “work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories.” Almost all cases reported during April have been in the dormitories: purpose-built residences where around 300,000 of Singapore’s 1.4 million foreign workers live. Wednesday is the third day in succession that Singapore has confirmed over a thousand new cases.

Singapore extends lockdown by one month as Covid-19 cases top 9,000 – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — After Singapore’s cases of coronavirus soared by 1,111 on Tuesday to 9,125, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the country’s lockdown will be extended to June 1. “This short-term pain is to stamp out the virus,” Lee said during a televised address to the nation. “We cannot afford to be complacent,” Lee said, asking Singaporeans to “hunker down.” After a surge since late March of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, Singapore imposed an effective lockdown on April 7 – measures the government labelled a “circuit breaker” aimed at stopping the spread of the disease. Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced earlier on Tuesday that all but 20 of the 1,111 new cases are foreign work permit holders staying in dozens of purpose-built dormitories that house migrants from across Asia.

Huge jump puts Singapore’s Covid-19 caseload ahead of neighbours – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry confirmed 1,426 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, by far the biggest daily increase seen in the country. The spike takes Singapore’s caseload to 8,014, meaning the city-state, which has a population of 5.8 million, has reported more incidences of Covid-19 – the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus – than any other country in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, home to an estimated 270 million people, had reported 6,760 cases by Monday evening, while the Philippines, which has a population of over 100 million, had confirmed 6,459 cases by Monday afternoon. The disparity in numbers likely reflects relatively-widespread Covid-19 testing in Singapore, which is by far the wealthiest country per capita in the region. 

Asia-Pacific region faces sharp recession due to Covid-19 – dpa international

Many Asian countries have been on lockdown for weeks, with exceptions made for essential services such as supermarkets (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), a 21-country grouping that includes China, Japan and the United States, face collective economic losses of 2.1 trillion dollars in 2020 due to the new coronavirus pandemic. In a report published on Monday, the Singapore-based Apec Secretariat forecast that the region’s economies will shrink by 2.7 per cent this year due to the pandemic. The economic losses exceed the gross domestic products of Canada and South Korea, the fourth and fifth biggest economies in Apec, going by International Monetary Fund (IMF) country rankings. Apec member states account for around 40 per cent of the rouhgly 2.4 million cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.