March 17, 2020 / 10:02 AM / 15 days ago

Malaysia reports first coronavirus deaths, one from mosque gathering

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia reported its first two coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, including a man who attended a mass Muslim gathering linked to nearly two-thirds of the country’s infections.

Total cases rose 120 to 673, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Of those, 428 are linked to an Islamic conference attended by about 16,000 people - including 1,500 from other nations - late last month at a mosque near the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s Health Minister Adham Baba said a 34-year-old missionary who attended the event was confirmed positive on March 12. He and a 60-year-old Christian pastor, with a history of chronic illness, died on Tuesday.

Baba said the rising cases justified restrictions on movements starting on Wednesday for two weeks.

“This approach by the Malaysian government was necessary to avoid even more Malaysians being infected by COVID,” he told a news conference.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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