Malaysia records first coronavirus deaths
One victim attended mass gathering at mosque near KL, while the other was a pastor from Sarawak
KUALA LUMPURMalaysia recorded its first deaths from the coronavirus; Thailand is to close all restaurants and bars in Bangkok and postpone the annual Songkran water festival; while Hong Kong will bar all travellers from entering the city.
Malaysia reported its first two coronavirus deaths yesterday, including a man who attended a mass Muslim gathering linked to nearly two-thirds of the country's infections.
Total cases in the country rose by 120 to 673, the highest in South-east Asia.
Of those, 95 are linked to an Islamic conference attended by more than 10,000 people - including 1,500 from other nations - late last month at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur.
This brings the total number of people infected while attending the event to 428.
Malaysia's Health Minister Adham Baba said a 34-year-old missionary who attended the event was confirmed positive last Thursday.
He and a 60-year-old Christian pastor from Sarawak, with a history of chronic illness, died yesterday.
Dr Adham said the rising cases justified restrictions on movements starting today for two weeks.
"This approach... was necessary to avoid even more Malaysians being infected by Covid-19," he told a news conference.
Meanwhile, Thailand is to close schools and entertainment venues, including its racy nightspots, and even call off one of its most important holidays of the year to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
The measures came after the number of cases in Thailand more than doubled in three days to 177, including 30 new cases reported yesterday.
Mr Prayut told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that there would be "no complete city or country lockdown yet".
"We are reducing the chances of the disease spreading in high-risk places by closing them," said Mr Prayut, wearing a face mask.
Schools and universities across the country will be closed for two weeks from today.
In the greater Bangkok area, entertainment venues, including massage parlours, will also close for 14 days.
The order did not cover seaside resorts such as Pattaya and Phuket, or the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The mid-April traditional New Year holiday, known as Songkran, would be postponed to limit the movement of people visiting their families on the holiday, Mr Prayut said.
In a separate development, Hong Kong will quarantine for 14 days all people entering the city starting midnight tomorrow.
Hong Kong detected its first cases as early as January, but thanks to severe social distancing measures and a strong community response, it has managed to avoid the scale of contagion seen in other countries.
It now faces the risk that visitors carrying the virus could spread it in Hong Kong, undoing the city's efforts so far, which have involved significant economic and social sacrifices. - AFP, REUTERS