COVID-19 updates: Virus grounds Singapore flight; infection cluster in Malaysia; Thailand confuses everyone; test kits go to Myanmar

Travelers are screened in Thailand. Photo: Disease Control Department/Facebook
Travelers are screened in Thailand. Photo: Disease Control Department/Facebook

Thousands of COVID-19 test kits have been sent to Myanmar, Hong Kong announced a possible first case of human-to-animal transmission and Singapore grounded a flight over an infection as the outbreak continues to preoccupy regional governments.

Malaysia saw a surge of 14 new cases, most linked to the same organization. Indonesia may transform a Vietnamese refugee camp into a COVID-19 hospital, and Thailand confused many, including Singaporeans, by flip-flopping on a quarantine order for nine “high-risk” countries.

Officially, the infection has spread to more than 90,000 people and killed at least 3,000 globally, mostly in China. The disease is spreading rapidly in Europe, where the death toll in Italy surpassed 100. Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia were among nations reporting cases for the first time since yesterday. 

Updates from around the world since yesterday:

  • Chinese researchers say the coronavirus has evolved into two strains, each with different transmission rates and geographical distribution. 
  • A patient deemed to have recovered from COVID-19 has died in Wuhan, China.
  • Hong Kong reported its first possible case of human-to-animal transmission after a pomeranian dog was officially confirmed to have a “low-level” infection. 
  • Twenty-three MPs in Iran have contracted the virus.
  • South Korea reported 438 new cases today. 
    • The prime minister has banned exports of face masks amid a supply shortage. 
    • The country’s hospitals are reportedly struggling to accommodate the high volume of patients.
  • Italy closed all schools and universities as the death toll hit 107. 
  • Hungary, Poland and Slovenia reported first cases. 
  • The death toll in the United States rose to 11 after two more deaths were reported, including the first for California. 

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


  • A Turkish Airlines aircraft bound for Turkey was grounded at Changi Airport today after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19, multiple reports cited the Transport Ministry without elaborating further.
    • Flight TK55 was originally due to depart Singapore at 11:35pm last night. 
  • Two more cases were reported yesterday, bringing the total number of known infections to 112. 
    • The new cases involve a 43-year-old man who is a permanent resident here and had visited Malaysia recently, as well as a 62-year-old Singaporean woman who works as an assistant cook at a local preschool. The Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay at 31 International Business Park has closed for the week for thorough cleaning. The woman is also linked to the 94th patient. 
  • The Foreign Affairs Ministry said yesterday 3,000 COVID-19 diagnostic test kits were sent to Myanmar, which until recently was unable to test for the disease. 


  • Malaysia reported 14 new cases yesterday, most of them linked to the 26th patient, a 52-year-old man and employee of Khazanah Nasional, the country’s sovereign wealth fund. 
    • A total of 21 infections are connected to his case, forming Malaysia’s first cluster. 

Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong has reported a handful of new cases since yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in the city to 105 as of Thursday morning. 
    • New infections include the master of the Buddhist temple linked to around 10 other cases. 
  • The dog that had tested “weak positive” for COVID-19 was yesterday officially confirmed with the infection. It is likely the world’s first case of human-to-animal transmission. 
    • The dog has been quarantined.


  • Thai netizens expressed dread on social media after news that hundreds of Thai nationals – believed to be “little ghost” illegal migrant workers – may return from virus-hit South Korea. 
    • An unknown number have returned as rumors swirl online that some returned to communities without being tested or self-quarantining.
  • Thailand created confusion by revoking a recently issued order that arrivals from nine nations must self-quarantine for two weeks under force of law. The health minister who issued the order deactivated his Facebook profile after it was effectively rescinded. Its tourism authority yesterday clarified that visiting Singaporeans would not have to self-quarantine 14 days. 


  • Indonesia will transform a Vietnamese refugee camp on Galang Island in Batam into a COVID-19 hospital, a military official has said. 
    • President Joko Widodo told reporters on Tuesday he wants to build a hospital for coronavirus patients on an island near Singapore. 
  • Indonesia has reported no additional cases. 
  • Neighbors of Indonesia’s first COVID-19 patients have urged Indonesian media to stop live-broadcasting from their housing complex. A Facebook post by one of them has gone viral.
  • A school in Jakarta has suspended classes since Tuesday after a teacher was suspected of having COVID-19.


  • It’s a miracle in Manila, where confirmed Philippine infections remain at three. The country is investigating 662 people as of Wednesday, 39 are in hospitals while 620 have been discharged but being monitored closely.
  • No reports of local transmissions so far, all of the confirmed cases were imported. 


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