The Malaysia Health Ministry on Tuesday evening announced the country’s first deaths linked to COVID-19 – two male patients who had been receiving treatment in Johor and Sarawak states.
Health Minister Adham Baba told reporters in Putrajaya that the victims were 34 and 60, adding the older patient died at Sarawak General Hospital.
The 34-year-old patient, who attended the Islamic religious gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur late last month, died at a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) in Johor Bahru, according to Adham.
“Sadly, I have to inform that there have been two deaths due to the COVID-19 virus reported to the Health Ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Center today," Adham said.
Malaysia recorded 120 new cases as of noon Tuesday, bringing the total to 673. Of those, 12 are on ventilators, according to the new health minister, who added that 95 of the new cases were found to be connected to the Islamic gathering held from Feb. 27 to March 1.
“Of the 673 cases recorded, 428 came from the tabligh cluster,” Adham said referring to the gathering at the Kuala Lumpur mosque.
While the Health Ministry did not specify the names and occupations of the victims, the older man has been identified by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee as a pastor at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kuching, Sarawak. He died about 11 a.m., according to the committee’s news release, adding that 193 people he had been in contact with are being quarantined.
Adham told reporters the victim had a history of chronic illnesses including diabetes and hypertension.
The victim showed symptoms of fever, cough and breathing difficulty beginning on March 7 and was admitted to the hospital on March 14 after testing positive for COVID-19.
“His condition worsened and he was admitted to the ICU where he passed away today,” Adham said.
The younger patient, meanwhile, apparently had no other illnesses and was found to have died “purely due to COVID-19,” the official said.
He started showing symptoms of fever on March 5 and was admitted to the Permai Hospital in Johor Bahru on March 12 after testing positive for the virus. The patient was transferred to Sultanah Aminah Hospital ICU where his condition worsened.
Adham urged the public to abide by government’s lockdown order taking effect Wednesday and running through March 31.
“The cooperation of all parties, both public and private, must continue. We urge the public to follow the order,” he said. “This approach has to be executed by the government, to prevent more Malaysians from being infected by COVID-19 and curtail the outbreak,” he said.
Failure to follow the order could result in a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine, according to officials.
Nisha David in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.