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Coronavirus cases in Malaysia expected to peak in mid-April: WHO

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There are signs of a flattening of the infection curve, as govt curbs have helped

KUALA LUMPUR The number of coronavirus cases in Malaysia is expected to peak later this month and there are signs of a flattening of the infection curve, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday, as curbs on travel and movement help curtail the spread.

Malaysia has the highest number of known infections in South-east Asia with 3,116 confirmed cases, including 208 reported yesterday in the biggest daily increase in a week.

"Based on available data, the WHO Country Office has projected that Malaysia will see a peak in hospitalised cases in mid-April," Dr Lo Ying Ru, the WHO's head of mission and representative to Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore told Reuters.

The number of critically ill patients is estimated to reach the peak within the next week, she said, adding that the WHO projections could change.

"There are initial signs of flattening of the curve, but this could bounce back if control measures are lifted and if people don't continue to take protective measures," Dr Lo said.

She added that data on new infections so far and additional surveillance measures did not suggest widespread community transmission in the country.

Currently, there are 105 coronavirus patients in intensive care across Malaysia. There have been a total of 50 deaths, with five reported yesterday.

In contrast, Indonesia's coronavirus death toll rose to 170 yesterday as it passed South Korea as the country with the highest number of recorded fatalities in Asia after China.

Indonesia reported a further 13 deaths and 113 new cases, taking its total number of infections to 1,790.

South Korea has reported 169 deaths and 9,976 infections.

The data comes amid alarm expressed by some medical experts and officials that President Joko Widodo's government has been slow to bring in measures similar to those in other countries to curb the spread of the virus.

Faced by fears that an annual exodus for the Muslim Ramadan holiday would accelerate the outbreak across the archipelago, Indonesia announced yesterday it would give cash to poor families to encourage them not to leave the capital Jakarta.

Each year, tens of millions of people in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation return to their hometowns or villages after the Islamic fasting month, an exodus known locally as 'mudik'.

This year it is scheduled to fall late next month.

The measures announced by the government fall short of the ban on mudik that some medical experts had sought.

"What we're doing is providing an additional programme to limit the dispersal of mudik travellers," Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara said.

Officials said Indonesians would not be banned from travelling, but would be required to undergo medical checks if they wanted to join mudik this year. - REUTERS