KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Health Ministry called on Thursday (March 12) for mass gatherings to be postponed after at least 12 coronavirus cases were linked to a three-day religious event in the capital attended by some 10,000 people from several countries.
The authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has reported 149 infections of the virus, are tracking about 5,000 citizens who took part in the Feb 28-March 1 gathering of Islamic missionaries at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
"All mass gatherings should be postponed to minimise the spread of Covid-19," the health ministry said on Twitter, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Eleven of the cases linked to the meeting have cropped up in people in Brunei who attended the meeting - Brunei's first cases of the coronavirus. Some 90 people from Brunei attended.
Brunei's first case was a 53-year-old man who returned from Kuala Lumpur on March 3 and started showing symptoms four days later, its Health Ministry said.
The 12th case linked to the Kuala Lumpur meeting is a Malaysian, a health official said.
Singapore said it was investigating and identifying its citizens who attended the Malaysian meeting.
In a bid to stop the spread of the virus, Malaysia's religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri has issued guidelines for holding Friday prayers at mosques, including shortening sermons and for the ablution rites to be carried out at home if possible, so that people won't be crowding around taps to wash themselves before prayers.
Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli said Friday prayers would only be cancelled and replaced by Zohor prayers in a situation where the pandemic spreads uncontrollably in the country.
The former Federal Territories Mufti said it is also subject to the pandemic showing its impact on an area, or if many members of a congregation test positive for the coronavirus, or if restrictions are issued by the relevant authorities, such as the Ministry of Health.