© Reuters. Medical workers in protective suits pass barbed wire in the red zone under increased restriction during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Petaling Jaya
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia reported 35 new coronavirus cases in an immigration prison on Thursday after the authorities rounded up undocumented migrants in areas that are blocked this month.
The United Nations has called on Malaysia to stop the process, which has spread fear among migrant communities in Southeast Asia's third largest economy, reporting 7,059 cases with 114 deaths so far.
The Malaysian authorities have arrested more than 1,800 migrants in at least two raids to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and have expressed concerns that they may instead increase the risk of infection in overcrowded prisons.
The health ministry said Thursday that there were 35 confirmed cases in the Bukit Jalil immigration detention center on the outskirts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, of 645 people detained in a block in the center.
"The source of the infection is still under investigation … we need to examine it closely before we can comment," said Department General Director Noor Hisham Abdullah at a daily press conference broadcast live on national television.
According to Noor Hisham, the 35 positive cases included 17 people from Myanmar, 15 from India and one each from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Egypt.
They were arrested before Malaysia imposed movement and trade restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic on March 18, and had no interaction with others who were subsequently arrested, Noor Hisham said.
Felipe Gonzalez Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Migrants, said Wednesday that Malaysia's approach does not help contain the coronavirus pandemic.
"The current crackdown and hate campaign is significantly undermining efforts to fight the pandemic in the country."
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