Malaysia expects coronavirus case tally to surge in mid-April

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia expects the number of coronavirus cases to surge in mid-April, a health ministry official said on Saturday, as the country ramps up testing amid a nationwide shutdown.

The number of confirmed cases in Malaysia has nearly doubled in the past week to 2,320, the highest in Southeast Asia, with 27 deaths. It has imposed travel restrictions and a curb on people movement until April 14 to try to contain the spread.

The country can expect a surge in cases by mid-April, Noor Hisham Abdullah, the director-general of health said, citing analysts’ estimates of a peak between 6,300 and 8,900 cases.

“If you can stay at home, break the chain of infection, then we might be able to beat the projections,” Noor Hisham said. “If we can bring it below 5,000, we can achieve our goal.”

Malaysia is considering buying up to 1 million coronavirus test kits from South Korea as it steps up efforts to screen more people for the virus.

It plans to increase its diagnostic testing capacity to 16,500 cases a day by next week, from around 7,100 cases currently.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Mike Harrison