New daily record sees Covid-19 cases near 6,000 in Singapore – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health on Saturday announced a daily high of 942 cases of Covid-19, the sometimes-fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, pushing the city-state’s total to 5,992.  In a brief statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that the “vast majority” of the new cases announced on Saturday are foreign workers living in state-approved dormitories. “We must expect to see more dorm cases for a while longer,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned on Saturday. “Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild, because the workers are young,” Lee said. Though it had banned most incoming travel and later forced bars and restaurants to close, Singapore resisted imposing the strict lockdowns seen in neighbouring Malaysia and the Philippines until case numbers in the dormitories started to climb, prompting the government to impose a “circuit breaker” on April 7.

Asia’s economic growth to halt for first time since 1960s – dpa international

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

KUALA LUMPUR — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes Asia’s fast-growing economies will “come to a standstill” due to the coronavirus pandemic, faring worse than during the 2008-9 global financial crisis or the 1997-98 Asian crash. The region will experience zero growth for the first time since the 1960s, said Chang Yong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, who forecast that the economic impact of the pandemic will be “severe, across the board, and unprecedented.” Speaking during a press conference live-streamed from Washington, Rhee said Asia faces “a crisis like no other” due to the pandemic, which has killed over 136,000 people worldwide and prompted governments to impose lockdowns that have hampered commerce. “Containment measures are severely affecting economies,” Rhee said.

Singapore’s migrant workers bear brunt of Covid-19 spike – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday lauded foreign workers who have borne the brunt of a surge of cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Lee said Singapore is “grateful” for the efforts of the workers – who hail from less wealthy Asian neighbours such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar – for helping to build much of the city-state’s infrastructure, according to Lee. “Some man midnight shifts in our factories. Others take care of our sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. Hundreds of thousands of Singapore households depend on domestic workers from neighbouring countries,” Lee said.

Malaysia’s daily increase in Covid-19 cases drops below 100 – dpa international

Empty streets in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's Covid-19 lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that new cases of Covid-19 dropped below 100 for the first day since March 14. Eighty-five new cases of Covid-19 were reported by the ministry, taking Malaysia’s total to 5,072. Eighty-three people have died in the country after being infected. After 169 people who had previously contracted Covid-19 were discharged from hospital on Wednesday, Malaysia’s total recoveries increased to 2,647, or 52 per cent of all Covid-19 cases reported since the first positive diagnosis on January 25.

US returns 300 million dollars linked to Malaysian corruption scandal – dpa international

DSC_0134.jpeg April 17, 2020 321 KB 600 by 420 pixels Edit Image Delete Permanently Alt Text Describe the purpose of the image(opens in a new tab). Leave empty if the image is purely decorative.Title DSC_0134 Caption Najib Razak, then Malaysian prime minister, at the 2015 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 (Simon Roughneen) Description

KUALA LUMPUR — The United States has repatriated another 300 million dollars stolen from the corruption-stained Malaysian state development fund known as 1MDB, authorities said on Wednesday. In total, 620 million dollars has been returned to Malaysia, money the US Justice Department said was laundered through financial institutions in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg. The money is part of 4.5 billion dollars that the department has described as “allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates.” Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who was stopped by police from fleeing the country after losing 2018 elections, is embroiled in the scandal.

Half of Malaysia’s coronavirus patients have recovered, ministry says – dpa international

A deserted pedestrian walkway in Kuala Lumpur during the Malaysia's Covid-19 lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR —  Data released by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday shows that 49.7 per cent of the 4,987 people who contracted Covid-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus, have now recovered. While 170 new cases of the disease were diagnosed over the previous 24 hours, 202 people were discharged from hospital during the same time frame, Health Ministry director general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press conference. “Perhaps we managed to flatten [the rise in case numbers],” said Hisham. Since last week, daily recoveries or hospital discharges of people previously diagnosed with Covid-19 have mostly exceeded new cases.

Migrant workers suffer as Malaysia and Singapore combat Covid-19 – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — The wealthiest and third-wealthiest countries in South-East Asia, Singapore and Malaysia respectively, depend on millions of immigrants to fill low-wage jobs in agriculture, construction, domestic help and restaurants. This critical but often neglected section of society – nearly one and a half million people in Singapore and perhaps twice as many in Malaysia – has been thrust into the spotlight by the coronavirus pandemic. The past two weeks have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases across 43 government-sanctioned dormitories that house around 200,000 of Singapore’s migrant workers. Of Singapore’s record 386 new cases announced on Monday night, the “majority are Work Permit holders in the dormitories,” according to the Ministry of Health. Altogether around a third of the city-state’s 2,918 cases have been linked to the residences, where workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and elsewhere often sleep 10-20 to a room. 

A stitch in time: Malaysian designer turns her hand to Covid-19 masks – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Two weeks from the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Instant Hijabs UK founder Eliesmaziah Alias is usually busy sewing quick-fit headgear for dispatch across Britain and to her native Malaysia. Not this year, however. Not only has the new coronavirus pandemic killed 102,000 people worldwide and infected almost 1.7 million, it has forced dozens of countries into lockdown, leaving places of worship closed and reducing religious holidays to non-events. “It has been quiet,” the 46-year-old said. “I think people are worried about uncertanties.” With coronavirus rampant in Britain, where more almost 9,000 people have died out of over 74,000 confirmed infections, Eliesmaziah has turned her hand to making re-usable protective masks, mostly for medics working at a nearby hospital in Manchester.

Days after lockdown starts, Singapore’s coronavirus cases top 2,000 – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced on Friday that 198 new cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed over the past 24 hours, taking the country’s caseload to 2,108. A month ago Singapore had reported only 166 cases, numbers that meant despite its small size and high affluence, it was lauded as a disease-control exemplar.  Meticulous contact-tracing and widespread testing appeared to keep infection numbers low. Over 20,000 people have been quarantined, while schools and most businesses were open as recently as Tuesday, weeks after much of the outside world went into lockdown.  However as infection numbers rose beyond the 1,000-mark last week and health ministry officials found it increasingly difficult to source the origins of new infections, the government succumbed, announcing a month-long lockdown to try curb the spread of the virus. The restrictions were introduced on Tuesday and were branded a “circuit breaker.”

Malaysia extends virus lockdown though recoveries again top new cases – dpa international

Staff inside a Kuala Lumpur coffeeshop awaiting customers for takeaway. Sit-in business is not permitted during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Friday that 222 more people had recovered from Covid-19, the fourth day this week that recoveries exceeded confirmed new cases, even as a nationwide lockdown was prolonged through late April. Of Malaysia’s 4,346 positive diagnoses, 1,830 have recovered and been discharged from hospital since the first cases were confirmed on January 25. 118 new cases were reported on Friday, with new daily cases this week the lowest in a month. “Our trend is quite stable at the moment. Perhaps last week was our peak, now our cases are getting less and less,” said Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.