Attendees of Malaysia mosque event getting screened, organiser says after coronavirus cases spike

Police officers wearing protective masks stand guard outside National Mosque, after all mosques in the country suspended Friday prayers during the movement control order, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 20, 2020.
Police officers wearing protective masks stand guard outside National Mosque, after all mosques in the country suspended Friday prayers during the movement control order, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 20, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Worshippers who attended a mass religious event in Malaysia that is now linked to at least 840 coronavirus cases across South-east Asia are cooperating with the authorities, an organiser said, after the government said thousands of them were still being traced.

The four-day Islamic gathering held at a mosque near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is connected to 60 per cent of all the 1,183 cases in the country as of Saturday's count - the highest number of infections in South-east Asia, which has a total of more than 3,000 cases.

Malaysia has also recorded nine deaths.

The government said last Thursday that it had yet to trace 4,000 of the 14,500 Malaysian residents who attended. The health ministry said on Saturday it expected the number of cases to spike next week as it tried to track down unscreened participants of the Feb 27-March 1 religious event.

"After hearing reports of thousands or participants yet to be screened, many had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly until their names and details were recorded," Mr Abdullah Cheong, a leader of the event's organising team, said in a statement on Saturday.

"We are prepared and have given our full commitment to help the authorities deal with the pandemic," he said.

He also said 12,500 people attended the gathering, including foreigners and 200 Rohingya refugees. Previous reports have put the number at 16,000.

The health ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.