Coronavirus outbreak

Malaysia sees 190 new cases, most linked to mosque event

Infections climb to 428; Muhyiddin meeting ministries to discuss further measures

Malaysia has reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, announcing 190 new confirmed patients yesterday.

"Based on initial investigations, the majority of these new cases are linked to the cluster involving the 'ijtimak tabligh' gathering at the Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque," said Health Minister Adham Baba.

The Health Ministry had announced last Saturday that 77 people confirmed to have Covid-19 were linked to the religious event held at a mosque in Selangor.

The gathering was attended by about 16,000 people from several countries.

With the new cases, the number of those affected by Covid-19 in Malaysia has climbed to 428 people. Of the total, 42 have been discharged. Nine patients are in intensive care units (ICUs) in hospitals and require respiratory assistance. This is an increase from five ICU patients last Saturday.

Datuk Seri Dr Adham said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is meeting the health and defence ministries today to discuss further measures for tackling the pandemic, following yesterday's steep spike in infections.

While the ministry did not provide specifics of the 190 new cases, including where they were infected, it said the bulk were linked to the religious gathering held from Feb 27 to March 1.

The authorities estimated that 14,500 attendees were Malaysians. Contact tracing for the attendees is ongoing.

Those from neighbouring countries have been infected as well. In Brunei, 45 of a total 50 cases had been linked to the religious gathering, while in Singapore, five Singaporeans tested positive for Covid-19.

As of last Saturday evening, nearly 5,000 Malaysian attendees have been identified.

The rate of increase in Covid-19 cases in the country had slowed down before the spike from last Tuesday.

A mosque in Shah Alam, a suburb in Selangor, announced yesterday that it was closed for prayers after a congregant tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a trip to Vietnam.

However, the state's Islamic department told the mosque - Masjid Al Munawwarah - to reverse its decision and to remain open.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker in Sarawak has tested positive for Covid-19. Sarikei MP Andrew Wong Ling Biu was admitted to hospital last Saturday for treatment.

Other state lawmakers from his Democratic Action Party (DAP) have been told to self-quarantine for two weeks from their last contact with Mr Wong.

Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said most had close contact with the lawmaker on March 1.

The Sarawak state government has also ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysia sees 190 new cases, most linked to mosque event'. Print Edition | Subscribe