Coronavirus: Malaysia reports 77 cases from mass Islamic gathering in Kuala Lumpur

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KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's health authorities said 77 cases of the coronavirus in the country were from those who attended a recent mass gathering of the Tabligh missionary group at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, including 37 cases confirmed on Saturday (March 14).

These 77 cases confirmed by tests were spread over 12 of the 13 Malaysian states, and had also infected those living in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, and in Labuan, a statement from the Health Ministry said. Only Terengganu state has been spared so far.

Malaysia's confirmed cases totalled 238 on Saturday, including 41 new cases. The 41 cases - the biggest single-day jump in Malaysia - included the 37 from the mass gathering cluster. The ministry re-issued its statement on Saturday following queries from the media over the Islamic gathering.

The ministry figures showed that of those infected from the Islamic meeting, Sabah has 26 cases, followed by 11 in Negeri Sembilan and six in Sarawak.

There were five cases each in Johor, Melaka, Selangor and Penang, with three in Kelantan, and two each in Perak, Labuan, Pahang, Kedah, KL-Putrajaya, and one case in Perlis.

The Tabligh group held a mass gathering at Masjid Sri Petaling on the outskirts of KL between Feb 27 and March 1, involving some 16,000 people.

The ministry has said that 14,500 of these were believed to be Malaysians, and another 1,500 were from other countries.

Members of the Muslim group typically travel from mosque to mosque, sometimes in small bands, preaching to local Muslim communities, and at least once a year, hold a mass gathering in one or more countries.

In Singapore, all 70 mosques were closed for five days from Friday for cleaning, and no congregational prayers were held following the infection of two Singaporeans who attended the KL Islamic gathering.

Singapore said it was investigating and identifying its 95 citizens who attended the Malaysian meeting.

Eleven of the cases linked to the gathering have cropped up in people in Brunei - the country's first cases of the coronavirus infection. Some 90 people from Brunei attended the gathering.

Meanwhile, Selangor Islamic authorities have imposed a temporary ban all events organised by Tabligh in the state after its gathering at Kuala Lumpur's Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling between Feb 27 and March 1, led to coronavirus infections in Singapore and Brunei.

The ban on Tabligh activities covers all mosques and surau (prayer houses) in Selangor following the Health Ministry's investigations, said Mr Shahzihan Ahmad, director of the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais), in a statement on Friday.

The ministry in its statement on Saturday said that as of 7pm on Saturday, 4,942 attendees of the mosque gathering had been identified. Of these, 3,069 had gone to clinics to be tested.

Of this group, 137 were referred to hospitals.

And of the more than 3,000 who came for testing, only 1,634 had some breathing issues and samples were taken from them. The authorities also asked 2,932 of them to stay at home to monitor their condition for 14 days from the last day of the Tabligh gathering on March 1.

Malaysia, meanwhile, has banned mass gatherings until May at the earliest, and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday that the coronavirus epidemic had taken hold in the country for the foreseeable future as a second wave of infections spread.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin also said Malaysia's tourism sector had likely suffered nearly RM3.4 billion (S$1.12 billion) in losses in the first two months of 2020.

He expects the outbreak to cut full-year gross domestic product by between 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent.

Malaysia's GDP grew by 4.3 per cent last year.

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