KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA - Malaysia on Sunday (March 8) confirmed six new coronavirus cases, bringing the number of infections to 99 - the second highest number in South-east Asia after Singapore.
The jump in local cases in the last week has led to the country issuing a blanket ban on all cruise ships from docking, in a bid to concentrate medical resources on hospitals.
"The entry and transit of cruise vessels, passengers and crew members require considerable medical resources to be made available at ports for screening and treatment purposes," said Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager Captain K. Subramaniam in a statement on Sunday.
"During this difficult period, it is important that more medical resources are concentrated at hospitals to attend to medical emergencies and undertake preventive measures.
"The Ministry of Health in consultation with other government ministries and agencies has taken a decision not to permit the entry of cruise vessels to Malaysian ports, including Port Klang, with immediate effect until the overall situation improves and the spread of the virus is contained," he said.
Meanwhile in Bali, more than 1,200 people onboard the MV Viking Sun cruise ship, which was turned away from two ports on Java island, were allowed to set foot on Indonesia's tourism island on Sunday after being cleared by the authorities.
As many as 848 passengers including Americans and Australians, and hundreds of crew members disembarked at Benoa Port in Bali, after the port authorities examined their health, said Mr Ketut Suarjaya, head of the Bali health agency.
"The port authorities have decided that they can dock. Of course, prior to that, we've examined them in accordance with maritime declaration of health," he told The Straits Times over the phone from Bali.
Based on the health examination, "all are healthy", said Mr Ketut, adding that as a result, the port authorities permitted them to get off the ship.
In response to reports that two passengers were ill, prompting fears over coronavirus infection, Mr Ketut said one of them had asthma, while the other had sinusitis.
"After seeing their medical records, none have developed symptoms leading to Covid-19," he said.
Indonesia confirmed on Sunday two more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total of those who had tested positive to six.
In Bali, the move to allow the cruise ship to dock reversed a decision by Bali Governor I Wayan Koster last Friday to drop a plan to welcome the cruise liner as the administration sought to prevent the spread of the virus in the resort island, which has not yet have any confirmed case. Bali has already seen fewer tourist arrivals amid the outbreak worldwide.
Earlier, Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini refused to allow the Norwegian-flagged cruise liner to dock at Tanjung Perak port in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, while Semarang mayor Hendrar Prihadi also prohibited it to dock at Tanjung Emas port in Central Java provincial capital of Semarang, after docking in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara last Monday.
For the two new cases, a 55-year-old Indonesian man, identified as Case 5, was linked to the Jakarta cluster, while another, a 36-year-old Indonesian man, identified as Case 6, was a crew member of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government’s spokesman on the Covid-19 management.
Case 5 is now being treated at Sulianti Saroso Infectious Hospital, while Case 6 is being treated at Persahabatan General Hospital, he added. Both hospitals are in Jakarta.
“The condition of both is stable,” he said. “They don’t have fever, cough or a runny nose.”
The Jakarta cluster has been developed from contact tracing of those taking part in a dance event in mid-February in Jakarta, where Case 1 – a 31-year-old Indonesian woman had close contact with a Japanese woman who declared positive in Malaysia.
Case 1, along with her 64-year-old mother, were confirmed positive on Monday, while Case 3 and Case 4, who also took part in the event, were declared as infected by the virus on Friday.