Malaysia reports first 2 deaths due to coronavirus

A nurse checks the temperature of a visitor as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 3, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday (March 17), as the number of confirmed cases reached 673.

According to a statement issued by the Sarawak state disaster management committee, the first victim, a 60-year-old pastor from the Emmanuel Baptist Church in state capital Kuching died in the Sarawak General Hospital at 11am on Tuesday.

The state health department is still in the process of identifying the source of his infection, it said.

The committee said 193 close contacts of the deceased have been traced and are undergoing home quarantine.

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The second victim was a 34-year-old man who had died at the Hospital Permai in Johor on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said. He had attended a mass religious gathering by the Tabligh missionary group held in late February at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

More than half of the cases in Malaysia stem from the religious event, which was attended by about 16,000 people, including Singapore and Brunei nationals.

Malaysia has the highest tally of infections in South-east Asia.

On Wednesday it will implement new measures to limit the movement of its residents in a bid to curb the virus' spread.

All schools, universities and businesses nationwide will be shut, and all public gatherings banned from Wednesday to March 31.

During the two-week period, citizens will not be allowed to travel overseas, and those returning from abroad will have to undergo a health examination and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Tourists will not be allowed to enter the country during this period.

Essential services will continue operating, including food stores, banks, pharmacies and transportation.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus virus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.