Malaysia palace staff affected by COVID-19

The city center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is seen empty Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 28 March 2020

Malaysia palace staff affected by COVID-19

  • Since early March, Queen Tunku Azizah — a well-known epicure — has been cooking and packing meals for frontline healthcare workers in several hospitals in Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king and queen went into self-imposed quarantine in their palace on Thursday after nine of their palace staff tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19.
Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah took to Instagram to ask people to pray for her and King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.
“Please pray for us!” the queen wrote. “There are only me and my family along with three other staff in the palace. No one is allowed to leave the room, and no visitors are allowed in. Ya Allah, please save Malaysia!”
The queen said she had been “in close contact” with all nine infected staff members, although both monarchs had earlier tested negative for COVID-19.
It is unclear how the nine staff members caught the virus, but the queen said on Instagram that all but three of the palace staff would immediately be quarantined in a hotel, where they will go through the procedures set by the Health Department.
“Each one will have to go through the disinfection process before they board the bus. Their belongings will also go through the disinfection process,” the queen said.

She added that all of them would have to change into new clothes provided by the Health Department.
She added that the staff would be separated into three groups — those who had tested negative, those who are awaiting their test results, and those who “already have symptoms” — who would travel from the palace on three separate buses.
Since early March, Queen Tunku Azizah — a well-known epicure — has been cooking and packing meals for frontline healthcare workers in several hospitals in Kuala Lumpur.
The popular 59-year-old queen is known for her frankness and people-centric approach on social media. She has also been sharing recipes and photos of local dishes and cakes with the public.
“Today’s dishes that will be sent to the Sungai Buloh Hospital and the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre are chicken curry with tempoyak (fermented durian), vegetable stir-fry and salted egg”, she posted on Tuesday.
The Malaysian healthcare system is under increasing pressure as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. As of 5 p.m. on Friday, Malaysia has confirmed a total of 2,161 cases and 26 deaths.
The government declared 11 districts as “red zones” — areas with high risk of infection — on Friday, and implemented a full lockdown in parts of Johor state.

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

Updated 11 July 2020

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

  • Officials say a majority are under lockdown or afraid to perform last rites

NEW DELHI: Pratamesh Walavalker was always proud of living in a well-connected area with neighbors and relatives who look out for each other.

However, the resident of Dombivali East, nearly 70 kilometers from India’s financial capital Mumbai, experienced a harsh reality check on Thursday.

None of his neighbors or more than 100 relatives responded to his calls for help when his 57-year-old father died of coronavirus-related complications.

Help, he said, finally arrived in the form of Iqbal Mamdani and his group of Muslim volunteers, who took his father’s body to a cremation ground for his last rites.

“No one came to our help, not even my close neighbor. There is so much panic among people about COVID-19 that our own don’t come near us. The Muslim volunteers helped us in this hour of crisis,” Walavalker, 28, told Arab News.

That same night, 50-year-old Mamdani and his group of volunteers helped another family perform the last rites of an 80-year-old Hindu woman who had also fallen victim to the disease.

The group was formed in late March after a local civic body said: “All dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium irrespective of religion.”

After reports of a Muslim man being cremated in the Malwani area of the city angered the community, several members met with the authorities and managed to revise the order.

Since then, Mamdani said members of Mumbai’s Bada Qabrastan — the largest cemetery in the city — have extended their services to other communities as well.

“We get calls from different hospitals and people, and they seek our help in taking bodies to their final resting place. We decided to help the victims at this hour of crisis when there was chaos and panic in the city with the number of coronavirus cases increasing every day,” he told Arab News.

So far, the group has buried 450 Muslim bodies and cremated over 250 Hindu bodies.

He said their efforts would have been impossible without the Jama Masjid Trust, which oversees the Bada Qabrastan.

“On our request, the government allowed us to bury the dead bodies in seven burial grounds in the city,” he said.

There was one problem, however.

“No one was willing to come forward to collect dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to the cemetery,” Mamdani said.

Through word of mouth, Mamdani said seven Muslim volunteers quickly offered to help out.

The first challenge the group faced was a lack of ambulances, due to a shortage in supply as a result of the pandemic.

At first, they tried renting a private ambulance, “but the owner would not rent their vehicles for carrying COVID-19 victims,” Mamdani said.

With no other option left, the group decided to pool their resources and buy abandoned ambulances.

Mamdani said: “We managed to get 10 such vehicles from different parts of the city. With the help of mechanics and other resources, within eight days we managed to roll out the ambulances on the road.”

When the volunteers began gathering Muslim bodies from the hospital, they realized that several Hindu bodies had been left unclaimed, as their relatives “were too scared to perform the last rites.”

Mamdani said another factor behind unclaimed Hindu bodies was quarantine. The lockdown forced relatives to stay indoors and avoid the cremation grounds.

Experts have praised the efforts of the group.

“The Muslim volunteers have been really great support. They started working at a time when there was total chaos and panic in Mumbai,” Dr. Sulbha Sadaphule of Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, told Arab News.

Of the 820,000 COVID-19 cases in India, 100,000 are in Mumbai, where around 5,500 people have lost their lives from the nationwide fatality count of around 22,500.

“The morgue was overflowing with bodies because of a lack of ambulances and staff. When hospital staff and health workers were short in numbers they were helping us and the people,” added Dr. Sadaphule.

Mamdani said they would not have done it any other way.

“India is a country of religious harmony and we believe there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. With this motto we decided to perform the last rites on behalf of the Hindu families with the support of the police and relatives,” he said.