Malaysia reports first two deaths due to coronavirus

A visitor having her temperature taken at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 3, 2020. Malaysia reported its first death from the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday (March 17), as the number of confirmed cases reached 673.

According to a statement issued by the Sarawak state disaster management committee, the first victim, a 60-year-old pastor from the Emmanuel Baptist Church in state capital Kuching died in the Sarawak General Hospital at 11am on Tuesday.

He was later identified in local media as Pastor David Cheng.

The state health department said it is still in the process of tracking down the source of Mr Cheng's infection.

The committee said 193 close contacts of Mr Cheng have been traced and are undergoing home quarantine.

The second victim was a 34-year-old man who had died at the Hospital Permai in Johor on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said. He had attended a mass religious gathering by the Tabligh missionary group held in late February at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

More than half of the cases in Malaysia stem from the religious event, which was attended by about 16,000 people, including Singapore and Brunei nationals.

Malaysia has the highest tally of infections in South-east Asia.

On Wednesday it will implement new measures to limit the movement of its residents in a bid to curb the virus' spread.

All schools, universities and businesses nationwide will be shut, and all public gatherings banned from Wednesday to March 31.

During the two-week period, citizens will not be allowed to travel overseas, and those returning from abroad will have to undergo a health examination and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Tourists will not be allowed to enter the country during this period.

Essential services will continue operating, including food stores, banks, pharmacies and transportation.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.