A 60-year-old church leader has been confirmed as the first person in Malaysia to die of COVID-19.
Pastor David Cheng from Emmanuel Baptist Church succumbed to the virus after being admitted to hospital earlier this week with a fever, cough and breathing difficulties. According to a statement issued by the Sarawak state disaster management committee, Cheng died in the Sarawak General Hospital at 11 am on Tuesday.
Authorities have since tracked down 193 close contacts of the pastor and all are currently undergoing a period of self-isolation.
In a statement, Pastor Cheng’s son, Anders, said the family was continuing to trust in the Lord at their time of grief.
“Give us some time to grieve but fret not, we are still at peace. Death has no sting,” he wrote.
Anders also shared the lyrics of a worship song that had been written by his late father:
“Over all over all
He’s the ruler over all
And my life in Him is secured”
“My dad is in a place where there is no more pain, sickness, grief, sorrows or worries, and he’s in a better place than all of us,” Anders added. “So with that, we are putting on our garments of praise and still rejoicing through this storm.”
Anders also noted that his mother and sister had both tested positive for COVID-19.
“As of now, I’m concerned more for my mom and sis and pray that their immunity will clear it without any further complications,” he said.
“Pray with me for my health too that I won’t be tested positive and my sister and mom will be ok, (and that) we will come out stronger.”
Malaysia continues to see a soaring infection rate, with the confirmed number of cases sitting at around 900. In addition to Pastor Cheng, authorities announced that a 34-year-old man also died from the illness on Tuesday after attending a mass religious gathering organized by an Islamic missionary group.
According to the Straits Times, almost half of the known cases across the country have stemmed from the 16,000-strong “Tabligh missionary group” event.
On Wednesday, the Malaysian government is expected to enforce new civil restrictions in order to try and stem the spread. All schools, universities and businesses will close down and public gatherings will be banned through to March 31. In addition, no tourists will be permitted to enter the country, and citizens will be prohibited from traveling abroad.