KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Malaysians should avoid close contact with animals to reduce the possibility of being infected with Covid-19 from these, the Health Ministry has advised amid reports of animals testing positive for the virus.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was responding to a question on what pet owners should do and whether the Health Ministry would be screening animals following cases of animals such as cats and tigers being found to have Covid-19.

“This is a very important question… the coronavirus are commonly found in animals, only seven of these coronaviruses have actually infected humans. Among the coronaviruses that we know of are SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and now Covid-19.

“So what is important is that basically we are telling our people, try to avoid close contact with animals, because there is a possibility that if we have close contact with animals, if that animal is infected with a virus, and that virus can infect human beings, for example — coronavirus.

“So that is something we need to take precautions, make sure we have to take all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves, maintain good personal hygiene. Otherwise we can become the victim as well,” he said during a press conference that was broadcast live this evening.

The Health Ministry has been advocating various precautions that can be taken to avoid being infected with Covid-19, including the frequent washing of hands with water and soap or the use of hand sanitisers if water and soap is not available, besides practising social distancing by staying one metre apart from each other.

When asked if animals should be euthanised if their owners test positive for Covid-19, Dr Noor Hisham said that the animals must be brought to a veterinarian for examination.

Earlier today, a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19.

The zoo yesterday said the tiger was believed to have been infected after exposure to an unknown zoo employee, with the latter being an employee who did not show any symptoms despite being infected with Covid-19.

According to the zoo, it believes this is the first known case globally where the Covid-19 virus spread from a human to an animal.

Malaysia has imposed a four-week-long movement control order with the aim of cutting down Covid-19 infections.

As of noon today, Malaysia recorded its highest-ever daily discharge of recovered Covid-19 patients at 236, while the death toll now stands at 62.