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. 

Malaysia extends virus lockdown to mid-April as deaths hit 19 – dpa international

Lockdown as seen Iinside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on March 25 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will extend restrictions aimed at stemming rising numbers of new coronavirus cases until mid-April, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday. “The trend [of new infections] is expected to continue for a while before new cases begin to subside,” Muhyiddin said in a televised lunchtime address, announcing that curbs on travel and business imposed a week ago will be extended to April 14. “The public must be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time,” the prime minister warned. Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced later on Wednesday that 19 people have died in the country after contracting Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the pandemic that has killed over 19,000 worldwide.

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.”

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.”

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. 

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.