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More Coronavirus Cases Erupt in Southeast Asia

BenarNews staff
Washington
2020-02-04
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Passengers wear face masks as they rest at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Feb. 4, 2020.
Passengers wear face masks as they rest at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Feb. 4, 2020.
AP

Updated at 9:27 a.m. ET on 2020-02-05

Southeast Asian nations reported an eruption of new cases of the deadly coronavirus on Tuesday, with Malaysia confirming its first citizen case and neighbors Thailand and Singapore detecting more cases of the illness that has killed hundreds in China.

As of Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had recorded 20,647 confirmed cases from 25 countries, including 20,471 in China.

Thailand still had the highest number of cases outside China, with 25, while Singapore’s rose to 24 on Tuesday. Malaysia had so far recorded 10 cases and the Philippines, which announced the first virus death outside of China on Sunday, had reported three cases, according to WHO.

China’s National Health Commission reported 64 deaths on Monday, taking the country’s toll to 425.

The latest reports on the virus from selected South Asian and Southeast Asian nations:

Malaysia

Malaysia confirmed two new cases on Tuesday, including that of a 41-year-old man who became the nation’s first citizen to be infected with the coronavirus.

The announcement brought the total number of cases in the nation to 10.

Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the man from Selangor state had attended a business meeting in Singapore with Chinese colleagues, including one from Wuhan.

“He returned to Malaysia on Jan. 23, and on Jan. 29 he received treatment at a private hospital because of fever and cough,” Dzulfefly told reporters.

The other new case of the flu-like illness involved a 63-year-old man from Wuhan, who has been in Malaysia since Jan. 18, he said.

A statement from Singapore’s health ministry on Tuesday confirmed six additional cases of the virus, bringing to 24 the number of confirmed cases in the city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.

“Three of the local transmission cases can be traced to contact with recent travelers from Mainland China. The fourth case is a close contact of one of the local transmission cases,” the statement said.

The remaining two were from among the group of Singaporeans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Jan. 30, it said.

The four cases that involved human-to-human transmission included an Indonesian maid of a Singaporean woman working in a health product shop patronized by Chinese tourists, the statement said.

Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of Kuala Lumpur’s health ministry, said Tuesday that the 10 cases in Malaysia included a 4-year-old Chinese girl who had recovered from the virus and was allowed to return home.

“She is now is good health and has been allowed to return home,” Noor said in a statement.

“This case shows that the 2019-nCoV infection is treatable and that the patient can recover completely,” he said, referring to the assigned name of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Thailand

Thailand said it detected six more cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 25.

Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Thai Department of Disease Control, told reporters in Bangkok that four of the six new cases involved Thais, including two rental-car drivers who had picked up Chinese passengers. The other two are a Chinese couple who had returned from a recent trip to Japan, he said.

“Five out of six new patients announced today have improved, and when the lab results show a negative, they will be allowed to leave the hospital,” Suwannachai said.

One of the four Thais, a 70-year-old with pneumonia, was currently in serious condition, Suwannachai said, without elaborating.

Authorities said 17 of the total 25 people carrying the virus remained hospitalized. The Buddhist-majority nation on Friday identified a taxi driver as its first case of human-to-human transmission.

Meanwhile, a Thai Air Asia flight arrived on Tuesday at the U-Tapao airport with 138 Thai nationals evacuated from Wuhan, officials said.

News photos showed the repatriated Thais waving from buses, which would take them to a naval facility east of Bangkok, where officials said they would be quarantined for 14 days.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters that six of the evacuees were sent to hospitals after exhibiting high fever upon arrival.

“They were checked for symptoms and high fever,” he said.

Elsewhere, a 42-year-old South Korean woman has been diagnosed with the virus after returning home on Jan. 19 from a tour in Thailand, according to a statement from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thai authorities could not confirm if the South Korean contracted the virus while visiting Thailand, since Seoul authorities have also detected 16 cases, Suwannachai said.

The woman sought treatment on Jan. 25 after experiencing chills and other symptoms, but only tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, South Korean officials said.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s decision on Sunday to suspend the issuance of visas-upon-arrival to Chinese nationals in the wake of the virus has sparked complaints from Taiwan.

Dhaka’s blanket ban has resulted in some Taiwanese being refused entry to the South Asian country, Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters Tuesday.

She said the ministry had contacted the Bangladeshi government, informing Dhaka authorities that Taiwan “is not part of the People’s Republic of China.”

Taiwan, which has reported 11 cases of the virus, established the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Bangladesh in 2004, but shut it down five years later.

On Saturday, Bangladesh repatriated 312 of its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but so far has not confirmed any cases. The repatriated Bangladeshis were expected to be kept at a quarantine unit in the capital.

Indonesia

Although it has not confirmed any case of the coronavirus so far, Indonesia has imposed a travel ban to and from China starting midnight on Wednesday, amid efforts to prevent the infection from spreading in its archipelago.

Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian warned that such a ban, including Jakarta’s move to suspend its visa-free and visa-upon-arrival policies for Chinese nationals, could hit Indonesia’s tourism industry.

“We need to be calm,” Xiao told reporters Tuesday. “Don’t overreact and cause a negative impact on investment and the economy.”

China is one of the biggest sources of investment and tourism revenue for most Southeast Asian nations, whose top officials had earlier shied away from imposing travel bans.

Xiao said about 2 million Chinese tourists visit Indonesia last year, representing 13 percent of the Southeast Asian nation’s total tourist arrival for that period. “We hope that Indonesia can be rational,” he said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters on Sunday that visitors who have been in China for 14 days would be barred from entering or transiting the country.

On Tuesday, Indonesia rejected East Timor’s request to quarantine its 17 citizens scheduled to be evacuated from Wuhan.

Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, vice governor of the island of Bali, earlier told reporters that the East Timor government had asked Jakarta to quarantine 17 students in Bali for up to three weeks when they land on the island.

But Ketut Suarjaya, chief of the island’s health office, said an official letter rejecting East Timor’s request had been sent through the Indonesian embassy in Dili.

Philippines

The Philippines, where the first recorded death outside China occurred over the weekend, has also imposed travel restrictions, banning the entry of all foreign nationals travelling from China.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos on Monday not to engage in xenophobia, a day after his government reported the death of a Chinese man, who was already infected when he traveled to the Philippines in January.

“This mentioning the Chinese and blaming them is xenophobia,” Duterte told reporters. “Stop this xenophobia thing.”

He said that Chinese nationals flying in from outside China would be allowed to enter the Philippines, as health authorities said they were awaiting confirmation on whether 48 other patients currently under observation were infected.

WHO has declared the flu-like illnesses that started in China late last year a global emergency, but experts say much is still unknown about the deadly virus, including its mortality rate.

“No new countries reported cases of 2019-nCoV in the 24 hours since the previous situation report,” the WHO said in its latest Situation Report on Tuesday.

Wilawan Watcharasakwet in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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