Surge in Malaysia, Brunei coronavirus cases linked to religious event

Surge in Malaysia, Brunei coronavirus cases linked to religious event
Muslims gather at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Getty Images)
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Updated 16 March 2020

Surge in Malaysia, Brunei coronavirus cases linked to religious event

Surge in Malaysia, Brunei coronavirus cases linked to religious event
  • Malaysia has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia 
  • Singapore bars entry for people with recent travel history to France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Iran, South Korea and China

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced that 190 people had tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, the highest number of infections reported in a day in the country. Most of the cases are linked to a mass religious gathering held at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur last month.
The new infections bring Malaysia’s total to 428, the highest number of reported coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia. 
“Based on early investigation, most of the new cases are linked to the Tabligh gathering at Sri Petaling Mosque,” Health Minister Dr. Adham Baba said in a statement on Sunday.
It is estimated that 16,000 people arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the four-day religious event in late February, some of them from neighboring Singapore and Brunei.
Malaysian health authorities are trying to track down 14,500 nationals who attended the event.
The ministry has called on them and their close contacts to undergo virus testing and self-quarantine for 14 days.
On Thursday, the minister said that all mass gatherings should be avoided due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Gatherings of more than 50 people are considered a mass gathering, so the public should avoid them,” he said.
A day later, however, more than 30,000 people participated in a Hindu event, the Floating Chariot Festival in Penang state.
Stricter measures have been imposed by Malaysia’s neighbors.
Brunei announced on Sunday that it is barring its citizens from traveling out of the country as the number of persons infected with the coronavirus has reached 50.
Most of the cases are related to the Kuala Lumpur Tabligh event. Authorities have also requested mass gatherings be avoided and events such as weddings be held at home with a limited number of guests.
Singapore has suspended Friday prayers and closed all mosques for disinfection. It has also tightened its border control measures.
All new visitors who had visited France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Iran, South Korea or mainland China within the last 14 days will not be allowed transit and entry into Singapore.