Coronavirus outbreak

Contact tracing being done for 90 Singaporeans who were at KL event

Both men are warded in isolation rooms at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
Both men are warded in isolation rooms at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Ministry of Health is conducting contact tracing for about 90 Singaporeans who were at a mass religious gathering on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, after two of them were infected with the coronavirus.

The first is a 29-year-old man who was in Malaysia from Feb 29 to March 4, and the second is a 48-year-old man who was in Malaysia from Feb 28 to March 2.

Both were confirmed to have the Covid-19 infection yesterday morning, and identified as cases 183 and 187 respectively. They are warded in isolation rooms at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said at a press conference yesterday that the Singaporeans who were at the gathering were not affiliated to a particular mosque or group and probably knew one another only socially.

One person in the group became sick a few days after returning here and sought medical attention on Monday, Mr Masagos said.

"In between arriving in Singapore and getting medical attention, he also performed duties of an officer of a mosque and in that process visited four mosques," said Mr Masagos, without giving further details.

As for the other person, he said: "We are still tracing his movements for the last few days."

The gathering was held at the Seri Petaling mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur from Feb 27 to March 1, and reportedly involved up to 10,000 people from several countries who are devotees of the Tablighi Jama'at movement.

The Muslim missionary movement started in India in the late 1920s and is known as Jemaah Tabligh in Malaysia and Singapore.

While not much is known about its funding and structure, it is understood that there are millions of members worldwide. They believe Muslims should replicate closely the life of Prophet Muhammad, including in dress and conduct, and follow certain practices like the "chela", a 40-day annual preaching tour.

A photo of a noticeboard at the Seri Petaling mosque showing the number of foreign participants at the gathering listed 95 Singaporeans; the Singapore authorities believe the actual number is about 90.

The noticeboard also indicated that there were more than 1,500 foreign participants at the gathering, including 696 from Indonesia, 215 from the Philippines, 132 from Thailand, 130 from Vietnam, 79 from Cambodia and 74 from Brunei.

Brunei's Health Ministry said that as of yesterday, all but one of the 25 confirmed Covid-19 patients in the country were linked to the gathering. The 25th case had travelled to Malaysia and Cambodia.

The Malaysian authorities are also tracking the Malaysians who had attended the event, and encouraging them to report to the health authorities in their respective states to be tested for Covid-19 infection.

Hariz Baharudin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2020, with the headline 'Contact tracing being done for 90 S'poreans who were at KL event'. Print Edition | Subscribe