Malaysia bans mass gatherings, Singapore curbs travel from virus-hit Europe – dpa international


KUALA LUMPUR – As Malaysia’s coronavirus caseload neared 200, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced in a televised speech on Friday night that all mass gatherings will be cancelled until the end of April.

This includes international meetings as well as religious and sporting events, Muhyiddin said, adding that gross domestic product had contracted between 0.8 and 1.2 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak began in China, Malaysia’s biggest trade partner.

As Muhyiddin was addressing the nation, the country’s Health Ministry confirmed 39 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 197.

On Thursday, Malaysia’s Health Ministry urged the postponement of all “mass gatherings” after it emerged that an estimated 10,000-15,000 people convened at an Islamic ceremony in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in late February that was also attended by a Bruneian who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Almsot 40 Malaysians and several Singaporeans who attended the event have since been confirmed as coronavirus-positive. The Malaysian Government is urging people who attended the event to come forward.

Earlier on Friday evening, neighbouring Singapore saw its caseload hit 200 after 9 new positive diagnoses.

Coronavirus case numbers in Malaysia and Singapore remain by a distance the highest in Southeast Asia, even compared with much-bigger countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. On Thursday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that the pandemic could last over a year.

Singapore’s Friday increase in numbers came hours after it announced a ban any foreigners who travelled through France, Germany, Italy and Spain during the past 14 days from entering or transiting the city-state.

The restrictions will come into effect at 11.59 on March 15 and are in response to a surge in coronavirus cases across Europe. They do not apply to permanent residents or long-term pass holders, who will be expected to stay home for 14 days upon entering Singapore.

The transit ban will affect people planning to travel via Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of the world’s busiest and a frequently-used connection point for flights from Australia and Asia to Europe.

Changi Airport stated on Friday that passenger movements for February were down 32.8 per cent year-on-year to 3.45 million, while aircraft movements dropped by 12.3 per cent to 26,200 landings and take-offs due to coronavirus impact.

Singapore, one of the world’s busiest maritime ports, also on Friday announced a ban on cruise ships docking. Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) had said on Tuesday that passengers from the Italian-operated Costa Fortuna ship were clear of the disease. The passengers disembarked in Singapore on Tuesday morning after Malaysia and Thailand refused to allow the ship stop at their ports.

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