Anxious Southeast Asia reels from fresh quarantines, lockdowns, infections

Shoppers wiping out items at a supermarket in Singapore. Edited photo: All Singapore Stuff/Twitter
Shoppers wiping out items at a supermarket in Singapore. Edited photo: All Singapore Stuff/Twitter

Malaysia is on track to being Southeast Asia’s epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, at least based on official reporting, as cases linked to a mass mosque gathering in Kuala Lumpur spill into nearby countries including Cambodia and Brunei. 

The country’s recent actions to curtail spread of the virus have also fed anxiety in neighboring Singapore after it announced a two-week lockdown beginning tomorrow, barring citizens, including those working in Singapore and Thailand, from leaving the country. 

Singaporean shoppers ambushed supermarkets for groceries only to find long queues awaiting them last night amid fears the Malaysian lockdown might create a shortage of supplies in import-dependent Singapore. 

Markets in Asia were mostly stable Tuesday on the heels of deep Wall Street losses, with no major losses or gains. The Nikkei 500 index was trading up 3 points, and the Heng Seng Index was up 1.1%, while South Korea’s Kospi 200 Index was down 2.61%.

Meanwhile, Thailand late Tuesday afternoon ordered all pubs, entertainment venues, massage parlors and theaters in Bangkok and the vicinity closed for two weeks. That came on the heels of yet another spike in reported cases today. The country is still testing the more than 100 citizens who joined approximately 16,000 people at the mosque gathering in Malaysia.

More than 50 million people on Luzon island were ordered into quarantine last night by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Taiwan and Vietnam announced new imported infections, including one who recently returned to Vietnam from Malaysia. 

Updates from Coconuts’ newsrooms in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong:

Malaysia

  • Malaysia announced a two-week lockdown starting tomorrow in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. 
    • The lockdown bars citizens from leaving and foreigners from entering the country for two weeks, from March 18 to 31. 
    • The new rule is also affecting the roughly 300,000 Malaysians who commute to Singapore daily for work. 
      • Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the city-state is working to provide them with temporary housing. 
  • Malaysia is now the worst hit Southeast Asian country with more than 550 cases. A bulk of the infections have been linked to a mass Islamic religious gathering.
    • The mosque event in Kuala Lumpur was attended by around 16,000 people. More than 14,000 were Malaysians and the rest were people from countries including Brunei, Singapore, and Cambodia. 
    • Malaysian Health Ministry said today it has identified nearly 9,000 citizens from the event so far. A total of 338 have tested positive as of noon yesterday. 

 

Singapore

  • Coronavirus cases in Singapore continue to grow steadily with more imported infections than locally transmitted cases reported in the past few days. 
    • A new church cluster linked to the Church of Singapore in Bukit Timah has emerged.
    • Total cases stand at 243 as of Tuesday morning. 
    • New patients include a firefighter as well as an adjunct teaching staff at two polytechnics.
  • Scenes of panic buying in grocery stores returned in Singapore soon after Malaysia announced a lockdown of its country, prompting fears of a shortage in supplies since Singapore depends on countries like Malaysia for items like fruits and vegetables.
    • The Fairprice supermarket chain today imposed shopping limits, restricting each buyer to only four units of paper products like toilet paper, two units of instant noodles, two bags of rice, S$30 worth of vegetables, S$30 worth of fresh poultry, and 30 eggs. 
  • Malaysian bus drivers employed by Singapore transport operator SBSTransit will stay in several hotels in the city-state as the former’s country lockdown kicks in tomorrow. 
    • “Contrary to an online report, our [bus captains] will not be made to sleep on recliner chairs in our depots. We will continue to work with our Authorities and monitor the situation as it unfolds. We remain committed to protecting the welfare of both our BCs and commuters,” a statement by SBS Transit read.

Manila

  • An island of nearly 50 million people is being quarantined. Classes and school activities on Luzon island have been suspended until April 14 and residents are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and necessities, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered yesterday. 
  • The Philippines’ 14th COVID-19 patient became the country’s first person deemed to have recovered from the disease. 
    • The 46-year-old man from Pasay City tested positive March 5. 
  • Total cases in the Philippines stand at 142 Tuesday morning.

Thailand

  • Thailand reported 30 new cases today, bringing the total number of infections to 177. 
    • New cases linked to a boxing stadium and previously confirmed cases.
  • The government is expected to decide today whether it will postpone holidays in April, close schools, entertainment venues, and cockfighting arenas. 

Cambodia

  • Coronavirus cases doubled in Cambodia after 12 new infections were reported today, according to Khmer Times. Eleven of them had attended the mass Islamic religious gathering in Malaysia.
    • The 11 people were among the approximately 70 citizens the Health Ministry had identified as attendees of the event. Test results for the rest are pending. 
    • The ministry has also designated the Great Duke hotel in Phnom Penh to house and treat COVID-19 patients. 

Vietnam

  • Coronavirus cases rose to 61 in Vietnam.
    • New cases include a Vietnamese man who was in Malaysia Feb. 27 to March 4, a Vietnamese student, a Vietnam Airlines flight attendant and a French tourist, according to VNExpress. 

Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong has imposed a mandatory two-week quarantine for nearly all international arrivals. 
    • The city has reported 50 imported infections in recent weeks.
    • Total cases stand at 158 by Tuesday. Two new cases announced involved two women who recently traveled to Canada. 

Taiwan

  • Coronavirus cases rose to 67 in Taiwan after eight new infections were reported yesterday. They involved people who had traveled to parts of Europe, Egypt and the Philippines, according to Taiwan News.

Indonesia

  • Indonesia has urged Muslims to suspend the coming mass Friday prayers in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Coronavirus cases rose to 134 in Indonesia. 
  • The country has also confirmed that three of its citizens had attended the mosque gathering in Kuala Lumpur and have tested positive in Malaysia, The Jakarta Post reported. 

Brunei

  • Brunei reported four more cases, bringing the total number of infections to 54.
    • Three of the new cases are linked to the mosque gathering in Malaysia while the remaining one is a British man who has family living in the country. He arrived in Brunei March 9.

Related:

Panic buying returns to Singapore after Malaysia announces lockdown; new church cluster emerges (map)
Indonesian Ulema Council urges citizens in high-risk COVID-19 areas to skip Friday prayers with fatwa
Hong Kong to issue sweeping quarantine measures for almost all arrivals as global COVID-19 cases spike
First Filipino COVID-19 patient recovers, two more infections recorded
Duterte confirms ‘enhanced’ quarantine of Luzon, mass transport suspended

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