• Thursday, May 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 06:10 pm

Malaysia expects Covid-19 cases to spike as more worshippers traced

  • Published at 10:58 pm March 21st, 2020
How-mass-pilgrimage-at-Malaysian-mosque-became-coronavirus-hotspot
A police officer wearing protective mask stands guard outside the Seri Petaling Mosque, which has emerged as a source of hundreds of new coronavirus disease infections spanning across Southeast Asia, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 18, 2020 Reuters

Malaysia has the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia, though Indonesia has more deaths at 38

Malaysia's coronavirus cases jumped to 1,183 on Saturday with eight deaths, and officials warned of a spike next week as they track down people who attended a large religious gathering linked to most of the cases.

The Health Ministry reported five more deaths and 153 new infections on Saturday, 90 of which were connected to the event at a mosque late last month that was attended by people from more than two dozen countries.

The four-day religious "tabligh" event near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, has now been linked to 714 cases in Malaysia - 60% of the total - and at least 840 across Southeast Asia.

Malaysia has the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia, though Indonesia has more deaths at 38.

"We expect the number of cases to rise next week and urge the tabligh members involved to come for screening," Health Malaysia Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

He told a news conference the government was trying to secure more ventilators to prepare for the expected spike in cases over this week and next week.

The gathering of Islamic missionaries and followers was attended by 16,000 people, 14,500 of them residents of Malaysia, including hundreds of Rohingya and other refugees.

The Health Ministry said it was working closely with the UN refugee agency to ensure refugees and asylum-seekers were included in preventive and containment activities to contain any potential communal spread.

To trace those from this group that had participated in the tabligh gathering, the Health Ministry said it would deploy officers from its district departments.

The government has also been sending bulk text messages for attendees to come forward for testing. The police chief warned on Saturday those who refuse to be screened "may immediately be brought to the station."

Malaysia's total cases are now only behind that of China and South Korea in Asia.

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