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


Near-empty roads in Kuala Lumpur on March 22 2020 during anti-virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

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.

The event is the source for most of the tripling of Malaysia’s caseload from 428 a week ago, according to the Health Ministry.

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 death toll from Covid-19 is lower than larger neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines, both of which have reported far fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than more-affluent Malaysia.

Earlier on Sunday, Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced a ninth death, a 48-year-old doctor who had recently returned from Turkey and was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday.

That announcement came as the Malaysian military was fanning out across the country to bolster police patrols of a lockdown that started on Wednesday and will run until the end of the month.

In Kuala Lumpur, the usually heaving commercial capital, streets were almost funereal on Sunday – empty save for a scattering of pedestrians and the occasional car pulling up at police roadblocks where soldiers loitered in the background.

“Not a lot of traffic, but not a lot of business,” said taxi driver Chong Tek Seng, who said that the police and army roadblocks were not a problem as taxis were usually waved through as long as there was no more than one passenger inside.

“I think though the situation is not ideal, it is arguably better than at home,” said a Dutch visitor giving his name as Nico, discussing the lockdown. Europe has been branded the “epicentre” of the pandemic and The Netherlands had confirmed 136 Covid-19 related deaths by Saturday.

Restaurants are closed durng Malaysia's anti-virus lockdown except for delivert and take-away (Simon Roughneen)

Restaurants are closed durng Malaysia’s anti-virus lockdown except for delivert and take-away (Simon Roughneen)

Police had earlier in the week complained that people were not adhering to the lockdown’s strictures, which state that venturing outdoors is only allowed when buying “essential” items at grocery shops and pharmacies.

The government says the lockdown is aimed at reining in the spike in virus cases in Malaysia during the past week. Officials have warned of a “tsunami” of additional cases should the restrictions prove ineffective.

Imploring Malaysians against being cavalier about the new rules, government ministers have tried to popularize the slogan and social media hashtag “Duduk Rumah,” which means “Stay at Home.”

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