Covid-19 to slam the brakes on Asia’s high-octane economies – dpa international

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. 

Singapore to spend 38 billion dollars as pandemic pummels economy – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat proposes spending up to 55 billion Singapore dollars (38 billion US dollars) to cushion the wealthy city-state against a looming recession triggered by coronavirus. “As an open economy, we will be deeply impacted by these global shocks,” Heng, who doubles up as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s deputy, told parliament on Thursday afternoon. Announcing what he termed a “resilience budget,” Heng projected that Singapore could spend up to 11 per cent of its gross domestic product to counter what he said could be “a recession at least as bad as the global financial crisis.” Singapore, which has the world’s fourth-highest GDP per capita according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) rankings, will spend over 11 billion dollars of its estimated hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves, Heng said. 

Malaysia urged not to arrest migrants who take coronavirus 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.”

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. 

Coronavirus forces trade and travel hub Singapore to close borders – dpa international

The Gardens By The Bay are one of Singapore's main tourist attractions (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A ban on tourists announced by Singapore on Sunday is the latest in a series of border closures aimed at stopping a coronavirus pandemic that looks set to send the global economy into a tailspin. Citing a “heightened risk of importation of Covid-19 cases,” the Health Ministry stated that the only non-nationals allowed in from 11:59 pm (1559 GMT) on Monday will be work permit holders in “essential sectors” such as health care. The ministry said that 80 per cent of the city-state’s recently confirmed cases were “imported,” with around half coming from Europe, the “epicentre” of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The spike in imported cases mirrors recent trends across Asia, with China, Hong Kong and Vietnam among the countries reporting such rises.

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.

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.

Malaysia reports first deaths linked to Covid-19 as case numbers near 700 – dpa international

Woman selling sanitary masks in Kuala Lumpur on March 17 2020, the day before Malaysia goes into a two-week lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia reported its first deaths on Tuesday evening from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Local authorities in Sarawak on the Malaysian part of island of Borneo said that a 60-year-old pastor died in hospital in Kuching, the regional capital. Some 193 close contacts of the deceased have been put under home quarantine, the Sarawak State Secretariat Disaster Committee stated, though the source of the dead man’s infection is unknown. By evening the national Health Ministry announced a second fatality – a 34-year-old male who was among an estimated 15,000-16,000 people who attended an Islamic ceremony held on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur at the end of last month.