COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia

The COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was confirmed to have spread to Southeast Asia on 13 January 2020, when a 61-year-old woman from Wuhan tested positive in Thailand, making it the first country except China to report a case.[2] The first death occurred on 2 February, involving a 44-year-old Chinese man in the Philippines, also the first outside China.[3]

COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationSoutheast Asia
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseSuvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
Arrival date13 January 2020
(9 months, 1 week and 6 days)
Confirmed cases861,277[1]
Active cases135,273[1]
Fatality rate2.43%
11 countries[1]
Government website

By 24 March, all states in the region had announced at least one case. As of 26 October, Indonesia has the highest number of cases and deaths, ahead of the Philippines in both aspects. No deaths have been reported in Cambodia, East Timor, and Laos.


On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.[4][5]

The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003,[6][7] but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.[8][6]


Southeast Asia was among the first regions to be affected by the pandemic. Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia reported the index cases in January and since then their cases were increasing. Indonesia, a country with 273 million population, reported its first cases in March which was relatively late compared to its neighbouring countries, but now being the worst-hit nation in the region.

Several countries experienced a significant rise in cases following a Tabligh Jamaat event from 27 February to 1 March at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, where many people are believed to have been infected. Major outbreaks emerged in dormitories for migrant workers in Singapore where social distancing was unable to be practiced.

Vietnam faced its second wave in early August. However, the country has successfully contained the virus. Meanwhile, Myanmar is currently facing its second wave along with Malaysia, which is experiencing a spike in cases after elections. On the other hand, Indonesia begins to see its 'endless first wave' peak as it records an average of more than 4,000 cases daily, most notably contributed by provinces in Java and central part of Sumatra.

Confirmed casesEdit


Brunei confirmed its first case on 9 March 2020 in Tutong, involving a 53-year-old man who had returned from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 3 March.[9] It has spread to all districts of Brunei, except in the exclave of Temburong.


On 27 January 2020, Cambodia announced its first case in Sihanoukville. It involved a 60-year-old Chinese man who had travel history to Wuhan with his family.[10]

East TimorEdit

East Timor confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 21 March 2020. It was an imported case and its origin is unknown.[11]


Indonesia reported its first cases on 2 March 2020, after a dance instructor and her mother tested positive for the virus. Both were in contact with a Japanese national who later tested positive in Malaysia.[12] By 9 April, it had spread to all 34 provinces in the country. Jakarta, East Java, and West Java are the worst-hit provinces.


Laos confirmed its first case on 24 March 2020, becoming the last country in Southeast Asia to report a case.[13]


Malaysia announced its first cases on 25 January 2020. It started when eight Chinese nationals were quarantined at a hotel in Johor Bahru on 24 January after coming into contact with an infected person in neighbouring Singapore.[14] Despite early reports of them testing negative for the virus,[15] three of them were confirmed to be infected on 25 January and subsequently quarantined at the Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor.


The pandemic reached Myanmar on 23 March 2020. Its first two cases involved a 36-year-old man travelling back from the United States and a 26-year-old man returning from Great Britain. Both were Myanmarese nationals and had tested positive.[16]


On 30 January 2020, the Philippines confirmed its first case in Metro Manila. It involved a 38-year-old Chinese woman who was confined in San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. The second case was confirmed on 2 February, involving a 44-year-old Chinese man who died a day earlier, which was also the first confirmed death from the disease outside mainland China.


Singapore reported its first case on 23 January 2020, involving a 66-year-old Chinese man who flew in from Guangzhou with his family.[17]


Thailand became the first country outside China to report a case. Its first case was on 13 January 2020, involving a 61-year-old Chinese woman who was a resident of Wuhan. She flew with her family to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on 8 January where she was detected using a thermal surveillance and then hospitalised. A few days later she was tested positive for the virus.


On 23 January 2020, it was confirmed that the pandemic had spread to Vietnam, when a 66-year-old Chinese man traveling from epicenter Wuhan to Hanoi to visit his son tested positive. His son contracted the virus from his father when they met in Nha Trang.[18]


COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia (as of 21 October 2020)[1]
Countries or territories Index case(s) Confirmed Recovered Deaths Active
Date Location 861,277 705,104 20,900 135,273
  Brunei 9 March Tutong 147 143 3 1
  Cambodia 27 January Sihanoukville 286 280 0 6
  East Timor 21 March Unknown 29 28 0 1
  Indonesia 2 March Kemang 373,109 297,509 12,857 62,743
  Laos 24 March Vientiane 24 22 0 2
  Malaysia 25 January Sungai Buloh 22,957 14,931 199 7,827
  Myanmar 23 March Tedim 39,696 18,865 972 19,859
  Philippines 30 January Manila 362,243 311,506 6,747 43,990
  Singapore 23 January Sentosa 57,933 57,819 28 86
  Thailand 13 January Bangkok 3,709 3,495 59 155
  Vietnam 23 January Ho Chi Minh City 1,144 1,046 35 63


  1. ^ a b c d e f "COVID-19 Update". 21 October 2020.
  2. ^ Cheung, Elizabeth (13 January 2020). "Thailand confirms first case of Wuhan virus outside China". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 13 January 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  3. ^ Ramzy, Austin; May, Tiffany (2 February 2020). "Philippines Reports First Coronavirus Death Outside China". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  4. ^ Elsevier. "Novel Coronavirus Information Center". Elsevier Connect. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Matt (4 March 2020). "What is coronavirus and how close is it to becoming a pandemic?". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Crunching the numbers for coronavirus". Imperial News. Archived from the original on 15 March 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  7. ^ "High consequence infectious diseases (HCID); Guidance and information about high consequence infectious diseases and their management in England". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 3 March 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  8. ^ "World Federation Of Societies of Anaesthesiologists – Coronavirus". Archived from the original on 12 March 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Latest news – Detection of the First Case of COVID-19 Infection". Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Cambodia confirms first case of coronavirus: Health minister". CNA Asia. 27 January 2020. Archived from the original on 27 January 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  11. ^ "East Timor Confirms First Case of Coronavirus: Health Ministry". The New York Times. Reuters. 21 March 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Indonesia confirms first cases of coronavirus". Bangkok Post. Reuters. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Laos Confirms First Covid-19 Cases". 24 March 2020. Archived from the original on 24 March 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  14. ^ Loh, Ivan (24 January 2020). "Wuhan virus: Eight in isolation in JB after coming into contact with Singapore victim". The Star. Archived from the original on 17 February 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Eight Chinese tourists show no coronavirus symptoms in Johor Baru". The Malay Mail. Bernama. 24 January 2020. Archived from the original on 17 February 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  16. ^ hermesauto (24 March 2020). "Myanmar confirms first two coronavirus cases". The Straits Times. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  17. ^ Abdullah, Zhaki; Salamat, Hidayah (23 January 2020). "Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus". CNA. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  18. ^ Hai ca dương tính nCoV đang điều trị tại BV Chợ Rẫy. Ministry of Health (Vietnam). 30 June 2020.