Malaysian health officials announced four confirmed coronavirus infections on Saturday, becoming the fourth Southeast Asian country where the virus has emerged.
Early Saturday, Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad confirmed that three Chinese nationals – a 65-year-old woman and her two young grandsons – were infected and had been admitted to Sungai Buloh hospital in Kuala Lumpur for treatment. He identified the woman as the wife of the man detected with the virus in Singapore on Thursday.
Hours later, Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of Malaysia’s health department, announced a fourth confirmed infection.
“This case is not related to the three positive cases that were reported earlier today (Saturday),” he said in a post on the health department’s official Facebook page.
Cases of the coronavirus have also been reported in Vietnam, and Thailand confirmed a fifth infection on Friday.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his government had no plans to block Chinese tourists from entering Malaysia.
“No stopping them,” Mahathir told reporters on Saturday, referring to Chinese tourists.
“We will check them,” he said. ”By checking, it would enable us to detect [the presence of the virus] at early stage.”
China has confirmed more than 1,300 cases of the virus and at least 41 deaths, reports say. It has blocked an unprecedented 36 million people from travelling, as the Asian country and the Chinese diaspora mark Lunar New Year, typically the most festive holiday of the year.
Australia confirmed four cases on its soil on Saturday, bringing to at least 11 the total number of countries outside China to be touched by the previously unknown strain of coronavirus first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Five others tested negative
In Malaysia, five others who were traveling with the grandmother tested negative for the virus, the Malaysian health minister said.
“Right now we have the grandmother and the two young kids in an isolation and observation ward,” Dzulkefly told a news conference. “The mother of the children requested to stay with the kids and we’re allowing her to.”
Noor, the Malaysian health department’s director-general, said Malaysia’s fourth confirmed case involved a 40-year-old man from Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. He said the man arrived with his wife and child by bus from Singapore in Johor Bahru, capital of the state of Johor, on Jan. 22.
As of Saturday, the man was reported to be suffering from fever and coughing but in a stable condition while undergoing treatment at a government-funded hospital, Noor said.
Johor health officials had also located all 17 Chinese tourists who were in the same bus and “screening results showed that they did not have fever and there was no symptoms of infection,” Noor said. The visitors had been placed under isolation at a health facility, he said, without elaborating.
There was no confirmed case of the coronavirus in the Philippines as of Saturday. A 5-year-old Chinese boy recently tested negative for the virus, while health officials said they were monitoring a 36-year-old man from the central city of Tacloban.