Malaysia beat Sars and Nipah. But Covid-19 is different

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Southeast Asia is ramping up its fight against the coronavirus as infections spread across the region, with nations locking down cities and sending in the military.As of Friday afternoon Malaysia, the hardest-hit country in the region, had reported 1,030 infections, Singapore 345, Indonesia 309, Vietnam 85, Thailand 50 and Cambodia 47.

However, with 25 deaths Indonesia had the most fatalities. Myanmar has no reported cases, but has preemptively closed its border and stopped its migrant workforce from travelling abroad, despite the cost. From Sunday the Malaysian military will help the police enforce a lockdown on citizens’ movements. The two-week lockdown is approaching its halfway point, but authorities have been struggling to convince Malaysians to stay home. This is despite the threat of six months’ jail for anyone found outside without a valid reason, such as purchasing or delivering necessities, seeking health care or performing official duties.

The government is also urgently attempting to track down thousands of people who attended a mass religious gathering at the end of February. The government believes 16,000 people attended the event at the Sri Petaling Mosque and 600 of them have already tested positive for the virus. It believes 4,000 people who took part are still to be traced, though the organisers dispute that number.

Meanwhile the director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, has warned Malaysians that if they do not adhere to the restrictions and social distancing the nation could suffer a “tsunami-like” wave of new infections.

The crisis comes at a particularly awkward time for Malaysia, with the country’s first cluster of infections emerging just as its government was falling apart.

Source : South China Morning Post

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