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 virus 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.

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.

Recoveries top new cases ahead of Malaysia virus lockdown decision – dpa international

Food couriers picking up delivery orders at a café in Kuala Lumpur. Restaurants are allowed to provide deliveries and takeaways during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — For the third day this week, Malaysia’s Health Ministry has reported more recoveries from coronavirus than new cases. The number of people discharged from hospital during the 24 hours up was 124, ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said during an evening press conference, taking the recovery total to 1,608 out of 4,228 cases. The ministry confirmed 109 new cases of Covid-19, the sometimes-deadly respiratory disease caused by the virus. Sixty-seven people have died in Malaysia after contracting the disease, two of them today, Hisham said. Malaysia’s caseload is relatively small compared to countries in Europe, the epicentre of a pandemic that has infected more than a million people worldwide and killed over 88,000, according to official data collated by Johns Hopkins University. 

Malaysia’s virus tally passes 4,000 but recoveries top new cases – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — For the second day this week, Malaysia’s reported recoveries from the new coronavirus have exceeded the number of new cases. The Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday evening that 166 coronavirus patients had been discharged from hospital over the 24 hours up to noon the same day. The ministry stated that 156 new cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, were diagnosed over the same period. Wednesday’s new recoveries take the total to 1,487 out of 4,119 cases confirmed since the first was announced on January 25. 236 recoveries were announced on Monday, which was a daily record. However Wednesday’s new cases mean Malaysia is the the first country in South-east Asia to report more than 4,000 coronavrus infections. Testing rates are lower in neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, both of which have much bigger populations than Malaysia.

Covid-19 recoveries exceed new daily cases in Malaysia – dpa international

Waiting area inside the traditional Chinese medicine section of Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Monday evening that 236 people have recovered from the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the highest daily total so far. The confirmed recoveries substantially exceed the 130 new infections diagnosed over the same period and were announcedduring a press conference where ministry officials jubilantly displayed signs emblazoned with “236.” Of Malaysia’s 3,773 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, 1,241 people have recovered, while 61 have died.
The rise in recoveries and flattening of new case numbers comes ahead of an April 10 decision by the government on whether to extend a lockdown aimed at containing the virus. The lockdown was imposed on March 18 after a sudden spike in cases, the number of which stood at just 83 one month ago.

Backlash prods Malaysia into banning beer brewing during Covid-19 lockdown – dpa international


KUALA LUMPUR — Heineken and Carlsberg will have to close their Malaysia-based breweries to comply with an ongoing lockdown, the Muslim-majority country’s government announced on Monday afternoon. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said during a press conference that the decision was taken after the government was criticized for allowing the factories to operate.  “Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp groups and many more were questioning why the Heineken and Carlsberg factories were still allowed to be open,” Ismail said. Both the youth wing of Bersatu, the party of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and the Parti Islam se Malaysia (PAS), which is part of the governing coalition, had questioned whether the breweries should be listed among the “essential” businesses allowed operate during the lockdown, which is aimed at stemming a recent surge in cases in Malaysia to 3,662

Malaysian trade slump sharpens central bank recession warning – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR —  New official data show Malaysian trade dropping significantly in February, adding weight to a central bank warning of a looming recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, said early on Friday that the country’s economy could contract by up to 2 per cent in 2020 due to the outbreak. According to the Department of Statistics and the Ministry for Trade and Industry, Malaysia’s trade in February was down 12.7 per cent compared to January. Although trade increased by 11.6 per cent when measured year-on-year, this year’s plunge is likely to continue while the coronavirus pandemic rages. On February 29, global reported cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that originated in China in late 2019, stood at just over 86,000, with 25 cases confirmed in Malaysia. 

Malaysia’s virus case number tops 3,000, over 4,100 lockdown arrests – dpa international

Staff at a supermarket check-out in Kuala Lumpur, one of the types of businesses open during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Health Ministry reported 208 new coronavirus cases on Thursday evening, taking the country’s total to 3,116, the highest in South-East Asia. The ministry acknowledged that Thursday’s rebound marked a setback after numbers earlier this week dropped from the more than 200 new daily cases seen last week. “We cannot expect zero cases of Covid infection in this country,” said ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah, during a televised press conference. Fifty people have died in Malaysia after being infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.Though Hisham expressed disappointment at the jump in cases from Wednesday’s 142, he said that 122 people were discharged from hospital on Thursday. Thursday’s numbers took Malaysia’s total recoveries from Covid-19 to 767.

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.