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Most Malaysia coronavirus cases 'linked to one event'

Malaysia has recorded 190 cases of the coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 March, 2020

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More than half of Malaysia's 428 coronavirus cases are linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month, authorities said.
Malaysia said on Sunday that more than half the country's 428 coronavirus cases were linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month. 

The Southeast Asian nation announced a spike of 190 new infections over the weekend, mostly linked to a global Islamic event attended by almost 20,000 people.

"Of the 428 cases, 243 are participants from the religious event in Sri Petaling mosque," Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of the health ministry, told AFP. 

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

Read also: Should Muslim Friday prayers be cancelled to fight coronavirus?

Brunei reported 10 new cases on Saturday, raising the total to 50, most in people who attended the Malaysia gathering.

Singapore has also announced cases linked to the event.

On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin warned Malaysia of a second wave of infections spread and urged people to avoid mass gatherings.

Ahmad Farouk, a lecturer at Monash University, told AFP that authorities should shut down mosques for at least two weeks to contain the spread of the virus.

Trial on hold

On Thursday, disgraced Malaysian ex-leader Najib Razak's corruption trial was halted after his defence team were reportedly ordered to self-quarantine over fears about the coronavirus.

Najib and his cronies are accused of looting billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and using it to finance a global spending spree. 

The allegations played a major part in Najib losing power in 2018, and he has since been arrested and is facing multiple trials over the scandal. He denies wrongdoing.

The legal process has moved slowly, however -- and Najib's main trial was hit by yet another delay Thursday when his defence lawyers failed to turn up in court.

The Kuala Lumpur court heard that they had been ordered to go into quarantine, local media reported, citing one of their colleagues.

This was because the lead lawyer had recently come into contact with his sister-in-law, and one of her colleagues was then diagnosed with the virus, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.

"The spread of the virus is faster than the speed of this trial," the judge reportedly joked, before ordering Najib's team to provide letters from a doctor confirming the claims.

Read also: WATCH: Saudi authorities break up wedding party amid virus fears

There was much scepticism about the claims, however, with one netizen commenting "excuses, excuses, excuses" and another slamming them as a "delaying tactic".

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 5,845 people worldwide, while over 157,000 infections have been confirmed.



Agencies contributed to this report.

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