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Malaysian authorities round up migrant workers over Covid-19 fears

Thaiger

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After the recent debacle in neighbouring Singapore, Malaysian authorities are locating undocumented migrants to contain potential spread of Covid-19. Already around 700 migrants and refugees have been detained in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia does not formally recognise refugees, regarding them as illegal migrants.

Singapore’s recent surge in Covid-19 case numbers has been mainly from migrant workers living in cramped accommodations.

Those taken into custody include young children and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Raids occurred last night in downtown KL where thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers live.

The raids and detentions are aimed at preventing undocumented migrants from travelling to other areas as travel restrictions remain imposed to contain the virus.

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador told Bernama that “We cannot allow them to move freely… as it will be difficult for us to track them down if they leave identified locations.”

“Those detained would be placed at a single location for monitoring until the movement curbs were lifted.”

There’s been a wave of public anger and xenophobia in Malaysia over recent days about the presence of foreign migrant workers, particularly aimed at Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees. The accusations, largely unfounded, include them spreading the virus and “being a burden on state resources”.

Malaysia has around 2 million registered foreign workers but authorities estimate many more are living in the Southeast Asian country without proper documents.

Meanwhile former Malaysian PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad has joined the chorus condemning the rejection of Rohingya refugees, saying the authorities’ recent decision to turn away a boat carrying some 400 of them was “inhumane”. Thousands of Rohingya ‘boat people’ take to the sea each year as a way of escaping the attacks from the Tatmadaw, the Burmese militia, and persecution from Buddhist-majority Burmese.

In a blog post, Mahathir said the authorities should instead have given them food and fuel so that they could make their way to another country or return to Myanmar.

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Health officials point to Thailand’s porous borders as biggest “Indian variant” threat

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / Ole Holbech

Thailand’s health officials say the Kingdom’s porous borders pose the greatest risk in terms of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 being imported. Prasit Watanapa from the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital says there is a distinct possibility the highly contagious variant, currently wreaking havoc with India’s healthcare system, could be imported by migrants slipping into the country illegally.

“What is worrying us now is the possible arrival of this new coronavirus variant through the country’s border areas, given the fact that more than 15,000 illegal migrants have sneaked in over the past 4 months. So, it is now very critical to step up security measures along the borders shared with Myanmar, Malaysia, and Cambodia. The Thai-Laos border isn’t as much of a concern.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Prasit believes the B.1.617.1 variant is most likely to arrive from India via the subcontinent and then Myanmar. He warns that were this to happen, it would take less than a week for B.1.617.1 to arrive in Thailand.

On Sunday, tests on a strain of Covid-19 detected in a Thai woman recently arrived from Pakistan confirmed she was infected with the B.1.617.1 variant. The 42 year old woman was tested while in state quarantine and, once it was confirmed that she was carrying the Indian variant, was moved to Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.

Kiattiphum Wongrajit from the Public Health Ministry shares Prasit’s concerns and is calling on everyone living in border areas to remain vigilant and report any sightings of potential illegal migrants. He adds that not much is known yet about the B.1.617.1 variant, including whether or not it is more resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control says illegal border crossings remain a source of significant concern for health officials. He says immigration officials have apprehended 1,218 illegal migrants this month alone. Most of those detained had arrived from Cambodia and Myanmar and Opas has urged officials to tighten border security and called on locals living in border areas to work with the authorities to end the illegal crossings.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

National lockdown in Malaysia as Covid-19 infections surge

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Malaysia has gone into full national lockdown amid a surge in Covid-19 infections, including highly contagious variants that are putting the healthcare system under pressure. According to Thai PBS World, the Malaysian PM, Muhyiddin Yassin, has announced a ban on social gatherings and inter-state and inter-district travel.

“Malaysia is facing a third wave of Covid-19 that could trigger a national crisis.”

Schools and other educational institutions are shut, but Muhyiddin says some economic sectors can continue operating. The lockdown is in force until June 7, with the PM saying the presence of new and highly contagious variants that put pressure on the health system mean there is no other choice.

Malaysia has seen a spike in infections in recent weeks and has now reported 444,484 cases and 1,700 deaths. Yesterday, it reported 3,807 new cases. Last week, the country recorded its first case of the so-called Indian variant, or B.1.617.1, which was found in an Indian national at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysia remains under the state of emergency introduced in January to curb the spread of the virus.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Malaysia

First case of Indian Covid-19 variant found in Malaysia

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Universiti Malaysia Sarawak Malaysia

Malaysia’s Health Minister has confirmed that a case of the Indian variant of Covid-19 has been reported in the country. Adham Baba says the highly contagious B.1.617 variant was detected in an Indian national at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The news comes just days after Malaysia banned flights from India.

According to a Bangkok Post report, the World Health Organisation has classified the Indian strain as a, “variant of concern”, indicating that it could have mutations that make it more contagious, that lead to more serious illness, or even prove resistant to vaccines. Adham has not confirmed when the variant was discovered, but is calling on people not to panic.

“We advise the public to remain calm. All public health efforts will continue in order to break the chain of infection and ensure public safety.”

Covid-19 is once again on the rise in Malaysia, with flights to and from India now banned and travellers from any part of India prohibited from entering. An unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 in India has sparked alarm in countries around the world, as hospitals, morgues, and crematoriums are overwhelmed with the sick and the dead.

Meanwhile, a national vaccine rollout is underway in Malaysia, with the country aiming to vaccinate 80% of its population of 32 million within a year. The Bangkok Post reports that yesterday, the country reported 3,418 new infections. Malaysia has now had a total of 415,012 cases to date, with 1,533 deaths.

Tests are also being carried out in Bangkok after a group of Thai nationals who returned from India tested positive for the virus. Samples are undergoing laboratory analysis to confirm if they are infected with the Indian variant.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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