Malaysia's biggest palm oil state shuts some plantations due to virus

A photo taken on Jan 31, 2020 shows a worker collect palm oil fruits at a plantation in Pulau Carey, Malaysia. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia's largest palm oil producing state told plantations in three districts to shut down after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said on Tuesday (March 24).

The suspension came as Malaysia, the world's second biggest palm oil producer, reported another 106 new virus cases in the country, taking the total tally of the infections to 1,624 - the highest in Southeast Asia.

The state, Sabah, will suspend operations at palm oil plantations and factories in the districts of Tawau, Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan from this week until the end of the month, according to a notice issued by the Sabah state government.

"The closure of the oil palm plantations and factories is aimed at preventing the movement of plantation workers as there were some workers in Tawau, Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan areas who have tested positive for Covid-19," the notice said.

Sabah, located in the east of the country, accounts for about 25 per cent of palm oil production in Malaysia.

Media reports said some of the infected plantation workers were at a religious gathering near the capital Kuala Lumpur that has been linked to nearly 1,000 cases in Malaysia.

Malaysia has said 16,000 people attended the event held between Feb 27 and March 1. Most of the participants were Malaysian residents but there were also attendees from 25 countries.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that the recent surge in the number of infections in the country could be because the participants at the religious gathering may have spread it in the community.

The ministry said the cluster linked to the religious gathering also involved people who had been to weddings and mosques.

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