Coconuts COVID-19 update: Overcrowding and shortages hit Southeast Asia as Myanmar reports first cases

Malaysian medical workers embrace each other in a photo posted online today. Photo: Noor Hisham Abdullah/Facebook
Malaysian medical workers embrace each other in a photo posted online today. Photo: Noor Hisham Abdullah/Facebook

Medical workers in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have turned to garbage bags or other nonstandard gear to protect their health as they battle COVID-19, while Thailand has reported more deaths, and Myanmar finally announced its first cases. 

Hospitals in Malaysia and the Philippines are experiencing shortages in personal protective equipment, while overcrowding in the latter has forced one facility to turn patients away. A similar shortage in Indonesia forced health workers to don cheap, disposable raincoats.

Thailand reported three new deaths today. The victims included a driver, a boxing fan linked to a stadium infection cluster, and a diabetic man. 

Myanmar’s first two official cases were citizens who had traveled to the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. There is widespread skepticism that the virus had gone undetected until this time.

More updates from Coconuts newsrooms in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong:


  • Malaysia reported its 15th death today involving a 71-year-old man believed to have come into contact with a person who attended a mosque gathering in Kuala Lumpur where many took ill.
  • Malaysia’s lockdown entered its seventh day today. Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob revealed the country has arrested 28 people accused of violating the order. 
  • About 10,000 Malaysian civil servants in Pahang state are expected to donate part of their salaries to help citizens such as taxi drivers and hawkers whose incomes have been affected by the lockdown. 
  • Kuala Lumpur’s police chief said crime has reduced by nearly half since the order went into effect. 
    • “The number of motorcycle thefts also shows a sharp reduction,” Mazlan Lazim was quoted by The Star as saying. “We have conducted 51 roadblocks around the city and Putrajaya since the start of the MCO and the situation is under control.”
  • Malaysian hospitals are experiencing a shortage in personal protective equipment, or PPEs, with some turning to garbage bags as an alternative. 
  • Coronavirus cases rose to 1,624 today after 106 new cases were reported. 


  • Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha declared a state of emergency to take effect Thursday, granting the government sweeping powers to enact curfews, limit travel and censor the media.
  • Thai commuters have been ordered to wear masks on trains starting tomorrow. 
  • COVID-19 claimed three more lives in Thailand. 
    • They are men aged 49 to 75. One is a driver, another had visited a boxing stadium and the third was diabetic. 
  • A man who wrote online that the Suvarnabhumi Airport was lacking in COVID-19 screening measures has been arrested and charged with committing a cybercrime. 
  • Coronavirus cases rose to 827 in Thailand after 106 new infections were reported today.


  • Indonesia has canceled national exams due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
    • Eight million students from elementary to high school were expected to take part.
  • Coronavirus cases rose to 686 after 107 new infections were reported today.

Hong Kong

  • People in Hong Kong have reportedly been violating quarantine orders. A video of a teenage girl dining outside while wearing a quarantine wristband has sparked outrage.
  • Coronavirus cases rose to 386 in Hong Kong after 30 new cases were confirmed. New patients include five members of a band that had performed in Lan Kwai Fong. 


  • Both the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives have each approved bills granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.
  • Philippine hospitals are experiencing a shortage in personal protective equipment, or PPEs, forcing some medical workers to use innovate using garbage bags, among others. 
  • A hospital in Pasig City is urging people to seek treatment elsewhere due to overcrowding. The hospital is treating 18 COVID-19 patients and observing 64 suspected cases. 


  • Singapore reported 54 new infections yesterday, bringing the total number of cases to 509. Forty-eight of the cases were likely imported. 
  • A preschool teacher tested positive on Monday. The Sparkletots center in Fengshan has been closed for disinfection.
  • Three parents of Singapore American School students have tested positive. One of them was confirmed with the infection on March 14 after returning from an unspecified European country, according to The Straits Times


COVID-19 Report: Indonesian death toll tops Southeast Asia
From food courts to supermarkets, here’s what social distancing looks like in Singapore
Thailand declares state of emergency granting gov’t broad powers

Masks mandatory for all Bangkok rail passengers: Transport Ministry
Traveler arrested for saying BKK airport didn’t screen for COVID-19
3 Thai men die of COVID-19, 106 new cases announced

Pasig City hospital tells people to look for treatment elsewhere due to COVID-19 overcrowding
Joy and anxiety as Indonesia cancels national exams amid COVID-19 pandemic
‘Don’t be stubborn’: Daughter of Indonesian doctor who died of COVID-19 cautions against ignoring isolation protocols
Donate to Indonesian healthcare workers on the frontline of fight against COVID-19 through these trustworthy charities

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