KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Malaysia reported a whopping 39 new coronavirus patients today, possibly the highest jump recorded, leading to nearly 200 cases in total.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the cumulative Covid-19 cases in Malaysia reached 197, including four patients in need of breathing aid and intensive care, who were given antiviral treatment.
They comprised 123 women and 74 men. Malaysians made up the majority at 177, followed by citizens from China (15), two Japanese, and one each from Indonesia, Italy, and the United States. The biggest age group among novel coronavirus patients in Malaysia was 50 to 59 with 53 patients, followed by 39 patients among those in their 30s.
Three samples tested positive for the novel coronavirus in surveillance to identify sporadic cases, which were found linked to the cluster from a recent tabligh event at the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur.
A total of 40 Covid-19 patients were linked to that Muslim religious gathering from February 27 to March 3, including 34 new cases. The 40 cases were located in Negri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Sabah, Kelantan, Perak, Penang, Perlis, Kedah, and Labuan. Outside the country, Brunei reported 24 cases linked to the KL tabligh event, while Singapore reported two.
“The public is not encouraged to attend gatherings or visit public places, including places of worship, especially those with respiratory infections,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin separately said in his Covid-19 address today that the government has decided to postpone all mass gatherings — including international meetings, as well as sports, social and religious events — until April 30.
“This decision will be reviewed if the Covid-19 situation improves,” he said.
Muhyiddin, however, did not define the size of mass gatherings that would be prohibited. He also did not specify if “religious events” covered regular religious gatherings, like Muslim Friday prayers or Sunday service for Christians. Different congregations, be it in the mosque or church, can range from a few dozen, to hundreds, or even thousands of people.
“I hope that Islamic religious authorities in the states will also issue similar guidelines by taking into account advice and instructions from the authorities, particularly the Ministry of Health,” he said, highlighting de facto religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri’s advice earlier today to continue Friday prayers, albeit with shorter sermons.
“Religious events for other religions that involve large-scale gatherings must also take into account advice and instructions from the Ministry of Health from time to time.”
The prime minister said cruise ships would only be allowed to dock in Malaysia to refresh supplies, with only Malaysians permitted to alight and to undergo screenings.
The government will also continue to prohibit foreign travellers from three Chinese provinces (Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang); Hokkaido, Japan; Italy; Iran and South Korea.
“Malaysians are advised not to travel to countries affected by the Covid-19 virus,” said Muhyiddin.
The government has increased the number of hospitals treating Covid-19 cases, totalling 26 public hospitals and Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.
“Besides that, collaboration with private hospitals, hospitals under the Defence Ministry, and university hospitals has started as preparation to receive an increase in Covid-19 patients.
“In addition, 57 government hospitals and 170 health clinics nationwide are prepared to conduct health screenings on those with Covid-19 symptoms,” said Muhyiddin.
Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor and a hospital in each state have been identified as Covid-19 centres.