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.

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.

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. 

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.