COVID-19 in Southeast Asia: Italian cruise ship docks in S’pore; 20+ infected in Philippines, Grab shuts Bangkok office

Medical workers in Singapore’s Sengkang General Hospital. Photo: Ministry of Health/Facebook
Medical workers in Singapore’s Sengkang General Hospital. Photo: Ministry of Health/Facebook

Known COVID-19 cases are mushrooming in some Southeast Asian nations that had long reported few or none as the region grapples with imported infections.

Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines – three nations likely to have underreported cases –  reported the most new infections in the past 24 hours, while Singapore braces for new infections from an Italian cruise ship that docked this morning after being turned away by Malaysia and Thailand. There have been no reports of COVID-19 aboard the vessel so far.

Malaysia reported nearly 20 new cases last night, including one individual who recently visited virus-hit Iran.

Indonesia’s 13 new cases included two foreign nationals, while Vietnam reported its 31st case in a British national who flew on the same plane as the previously reported Vietnamese socialite who was ill. The number of cases in the Philippines has risen to 24, prompting the country to declare a public health emergency.

In Hong Kong, chief executive Carrie Lam was expected to announce further travel restrictions today as precautionary measures against the coronavirus.

Other major updates from yesterday:

  • Italy announced a nationwide lockdown as infections surge to nearly 10,000 by Tuesday morning. 
  • Global infections have surpassed 110,000. Nearly 4,000 have died from the disease. 
  • The World Health Organization director-general continues to refrain from outright declaring the disease a pandemic but engaged in a semantic exercise to describe it as an “uneven epidemic at a global level.”
  • France’s culture minister has contracted the coronavirus. Cases in the country have surpassed 1,200. 
  • Nearly a thousand passengers have disembarked from the virus-hit Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco after around 20 people, including at least 19 crewmembers tested positive for COVID-19. 

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


  • Singapore has stopped waiving medical fees for COVID-19 patients on short-term visas but continues to pay for their diagnostic testing costs. 
  • The total confirmed cases rose to 160 after 10 new infections were reported yesterday. 
    • New cases include people linked to the dinner in Jurong as well as imported cases. 
      • A total of 36 cases have been linked to SAFRA Jurong so far. 
      • Imported cases include two individuals who recently arrived in Singapore from Indonesia.
  • Ten people are now in critical condition. A total of 93 people have been discharged from hospitals so far. 
  • A cruise ship reportedly carrying around 2,000 people, including dozens of Italians, has docked in Singapore this morning after it was rejected by Malaysia and Thailand. 
    • Costa Fortuna originally departed its homeport in Singapore on March 3 and has not picked up any new passengers, Singapore’s port authority wrote in a Monday statement. Passengers will have their temperatures checked upon disembarkation. Those who show symptoms will undergo swab tests. 



  • Malaysia reported 18 new cases, bringing the country’s total tally to 117. One of the new cases involves a man who was in virus-hit Iran from Feb. 20 to 27. He tested positive for COVID-19 on March 5. 
  • Two of Malaysia’s COVID-19 patients are in critical condition and in ICU. 


  • Coronavirus cases rose to 19 in Indonesia after 13 new infections were reported. 
    • They involve 11 citizens and two foreign nationals who had prior contact with Indonesia’s first COVID-19 case.
      • Indonesia did not reveal the nationalities of the foreigners. 
      • One of the new patients, known as case No. 8, also suffers from diabetes and is in a serious condition after getting infected with COVID-19. 

Hong Kong

  • Total cases in Hong Kong still stands at 115 Tuesday morning. City authorities are expected to expand its travel restrictions to include travelers from more countries. 


  • Grab confirmed with Coconuts today that its office in Bangkok’s Phrom Phong has closed five days for disinfection after one of its Singaporean employees visited it and later tested positive. 
  • Grab’s Singapore offices have also closed for cleaning, Bloomberg reported. 
  • The official count of confirmed cases still stood at 50 on Tuesday morning. 
  • Songkran festivities on Khaosan Road were canceled Monday, followed by an announcement that official celebrations would be called off citywide.


  • A British national has been reported as Vietnam’s 31st COVID-19 patient. 
    • The 49-year-old man had flown in from London to Hanoi onboard the same flight as the infected Vietnamese socialite Nguyen Hong Nhung. Nhung’s personal chauffeur and aunt are Vietnam’s 18th and 19th patients, respectively. 
      • Nine other foreign nationals from the same plane tested positive for the new coronavirus on Sunday. They include seven Brits, an Irish citizen and a Mexican. 


  • Three family members of the first Cambodian officially known to have COVID-19 have so far tested negative for the disease, according to Khmer Times
    • The 38-year-old man reportedly contracted the disease from a Japanese man visiting the country. The Japanese man departed Siem Reap and transited through Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh before arriving in Nagoya, where he was diagnosed with a fever and taken to a hospital. He subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. 


  • Myanmar has yet to report official cases of COVID-19 in the country.
  • Despite their deaths due to COVID-19-like symptoms, the government denies it caused three deaths last week involving individuals who showed symptoms consistent with the disease.
  • Nonetheless Yangon was considering canceling Thingyan, the water festival similar to Songkran in Thailand.

Additional reporting Khyne Palumar, Chayanit Itthiponmaetee.


Indonesia says community clinics capable of early COVID-19 detection
Cancel Culture: No Songkran on Khaosan Road this year
10 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in PH, bringing total to 20
Mapping COVID-19 in Singapore: 30 now linked to SAFRA Jurong; 1 likely infected in hospital

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