We were told there would be stricter regulations during the second phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Yesterday, we discovered that those of us under the order would only be allowed to travel a certain distance from our homes.

Meanwhile, the debate over whether Ramadan bazaars should be allowed to go on heated up, with Malaysians starting an online petition against it and various groups and individuals saying nay as well. And, surprise, surprise, PM8 Maddey Mohamad lent some support to the gomen’s efforts by saying the nation’s economy will eventually recover.

Remember how we said yesterday that it's been a year since we launched? Well, if anybody is curious about what our first newsletter was like, check it out here. Feels like a lifetime ago!

And I would walk 500 miles 10km

Keep calm and set odometers to 10km

Guess what peeps? We’ve been put on a very short leash indeed.
 
Under a federal gazette published two days ago, those going out to buy essentials or seek medical treatment are limited to a 10km-radius around their homes.
 
The gazette is an update to a previous one defining movement during the MCO, and is also tied to another which declared all states as infected areas. Anyone found guilty of violating the order is liable to imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to RM1,000, or both. It will be in effect until April 14, the end of the second phase of the MCO.
 
Some other regulations under MCU MCO Phase 2, which is stricter than the first phase which began on March 18, include:

  • a one-person-per-private-vehicle ruling, unless absolutely necessary 
  • 8am to 8pm hours for businesses and delivery companies operating during the MCO 
  • public transportation operating hours set at 6am-10am and 5pm-10pm, and, taxi and e-hailing services from 6am-10pm

There are some graphics in this article if you want to refer to all the regulations of the current phase of the MCO (minus the 10km-radius ruling, which wasn’t mentioned till yesterday). 

All of this is hard to deal with and no doubt there are some people griping, but it really is for our own good. And most importantly, it seems to be showing signs of working.

The Health Ministry says Phase 1 of the MCO actually managed to flatten the curve a little. Apparently, the data is showing that the number of new cases being recorded each day are actually lower than what had been projected by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER). MIER had projected a continuous spike in new cases, but the actual numbers are not spiking. 
 
But don’t go out and throw a virtual party just yet. It’s cause to be cautiously optimistic, but these are just “early signs” that Phase 1 is working – Phase 2 is still going to be critical.
 
And in yet a little bit more good news – the country recorded its highest number of recoveries yesterday, at 108, bringing the total number discharged to 645. However, there were two deaths and 142 new cases, bringing those totals to 45 and 2,908, respectively. (Side note: this is the sad new reality that we live in, that it’s considered a good day when ‘only’ two people die of a horrible pandemic.)
 
The Health Ministry is also working with the Communications and Multimedia as well as the Science, Technology and Innovation ministries to come up with a software that would allow the authorities to predict Covid-19 areas and find victims. Such a software, he says, would allow the authorities to take action fast. Software, such as BlueDot, has been used in the past to predict the spread of infectious diseases, including the current coronavirus. 
 
The gomen may also use hotels and resorts as quarantine centres to supplement the 334 quarantine centres already on standby or in use throughout the country, after reports emerged of a quarantine centre in Sabah being in dire condition. The last thing you want is somebody picking up some disease while being in quarantine for this one.
 
The government has also decided to backtrack on its ban on NGOs distributing food to the needy, but insists these volunteers adhere to strict rules under the National Security Council and an SOP developed by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (we hope the SOPs don’t insist volunteers speak like Doraemon, put on makeup or giggle coyly). NGOs also have to follow new guidelines by the Social Welfare Department.

Bizarre bazaar brouhaha

So, after being mock and slammed by all and sundry, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa curbed his enthusiasm about his idea to allow Ramadan bazaars to go on. Or to be precise, he did a full 3-point turn and claimed he never said such a thing in the first place, and had been misquoted by the media.

Still, regardless of whether or not Annuar was hard done by by the media or if he’s in training for the Olympics backstroke event, many people are still huffing about the fact that bazaars are even being considered.  
 
And who can blame people for being unhappy when such things could cause a third wave of Covid-19 infections and make all the inconveniences we’ve all been going through, not to mention all the efforts of our medical heroes as well as other frontliners like police and the armed forces, go to waste?
 
Malaysians have started an online petition to stop Ramadan bazaars from happening, and so far, according to this article, some 38,000 people have signed it. And, it’s a nationwide thing, so it doesn’t just involve the FT Ministry. 
 
Initially, Terengganu was the only state to have banned Ramadan bazaars, but Selangor has followed suit. MB Amirudin Shari, however, said the ban was “until further notice”, or until the Health Ministry has given the greenlight for the bazaars to go on. Which is a perfectly reasonable stance to have and what our beloved FT Minister should’ve also said.
 
But regular Malaysians aren’t the only ones who are against the idea. With the number of new cases still expected to be high by the time Ramadan rolls around, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy has urged the government not to allow the bazaars to go on.

The Malaysian Academy of Medicine also sounded a note of caution, saying there’s still no sure way of preventing infections, with new cases detected daily. It suggested online sales or deliveries, which is again a reasonable compromise that our beloved nimrod of an FT Minister should’ve suggested.
 
Annuar’s defensiveness over the whole thing boils down to his claim that his words were taken out of context (insert eye-roll here) and his insistence that the decision on what to do about bazaars is still pending. 
 
But let’s face it – it wasn’t some news reports that quoted Annuar saying what he claimed he didn’t, but all of them. It was only later, after he got into trouble with the public, that he said the decision was still pending.
 
But really, how can the decision even be a “pending” one? Has Annuar forgotten all the pain we are all going through during the MCO. Ramadan isn’t the only thing affected by this. Qing Ming and the Indian New Year celebrations of Chittirai, Vishu and Ugadhi as well as the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi all fall this month and all these communities are making compromises due to Covid-19. Wouldn’t all this be for naught if the disease spreads like wildfire again because of bazaars? 
 
Perhaps Annuar should listen instead to former Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, who speaks about “the new normal” after April 14 (assuming the MCO is lifted after Phase 2). Or, if he doesn’t wanna listen to Liew, cos he’s a member of the dreaded DAP, perhaps it would be better if Annuar read what former Health DG Dr Ismail Merican has to say about why mass gatherings shouldn’t be allowed for at least six months after the MCO is lifted. 

Current Health DG Noor Hisham Abdullah, meanwhile, has welcomed “innovative ideas” like online bazaars, and even a suggestion of a “drive-thru” bazaar. We’re not too excited about the latter option, but at least he’s keeping the options open in a bid to continue social distancing and avoid having large gatherings, while at the same time allowing traders to have some income.

All other things Covid-19

We are all facing some sort of financial hardship, no thanks to Covid-19. And we do mean all of us, albeit some more so than others.
 
The country, too, will face lots of problems economy-wise, as we’ve heard over the past few weeks. But former two-time w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ ̶h̶e̶a̶v̶y̶w̶e̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶m̶p̶i̶o̶n̶ PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad thinks the country’s economy will eventually recover, even though it’ll probably take a long time. He’s right, of course, though it’s quite an obvious point to make, actually.
 
But have no doubts, some businesses aren’t gonna make it and people are gonna lose their jobs. In fact, at least one entity is already going bust. The Regency Tower Hotel & Apartments in Ipoh will close shop at the end of the month, and 140 people will be out of jobs. 
 
This, of course, is why those who are not as severely affected need to do their bit to help fight the pandemic and help the less fortunate. And many are. We’ve already heard how the federal Cabinet have cut two months’ worth of salaries. Selangor has followed this example by announcing salary cuts for the MB, exco members, assemblymen and state-owned companies, as well as a second stimulus package. And, following his father, the Agong’s, example, the Regent of Pahang will forego six months of his royal allowance. 
 
The Raja Zarith Sofia Johor Foundation, meanwhile, has received RM2 million in donations for Malaysia to combat the pandemic, from a charity organisation in Singapore no less, while soft drink giant Coca Cola has decided to stop ads in Malaysia and channel all funds which would have been used for this towards Covid-19 containment.

No word yet on whether “Mr RM2 million pocket money” Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor is doing anything for the less fortunate. Yes, we keep harping on this guy, but that’s coz we think he’s a bit of a dirtbag. 🤷🏼‍♂️
 
And while SMEs are clamouring for more money from the gomen, ostensibly to help them stay afloat, Amanda Chong, the leader of one SME group says SMEs need to look beyond themselves and think of those who are struggling to cope. Chong is the COO of a property-related business and, since the MCO took effect, business is non-existent. So if she is saying this, then yeah, listen. 
 
And lastly, here are some other things in brief:

  • Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat has given the greenlight for all MCO remand proceedings to be held at police stations until the order is lifted. In a related development, Lawyers for Liberty has asked for guidelines to be established to ensure there is no disparity in sentencing for MCO cases. 
     
  • Speaking of MCO violations, 24 people have been arrested for playing football in Penang. In Perak, picnics, dips at waterfalls and fishing are among the reasons why people are breaking the MCO. Oh, and you won’t believe what one man told cops in a bid to get out of being put in a lock-up. He claimed he had attended the Sri Petaling tabligh which has led to a huge cluster of infections, but policemen interviewed his family who soon put the lie to his tall tale. 
     
  • The NSC has advised the public to be wary of mobile applications which are claimed to be representing the government or the PM as these could be phishing scams
     
  • A third batch of medical supply aid from Chinese mega-company Alibaba has arrived in Malaysia. The supplies include face masks, face shields and protective suits. 
     
  • The MCO has led to Malaysians flooding online sites offering grocery shopping and deliveries, says a study conducted by the Malaysian Digital Association. The same study also showed that online streaming websites like Netflix and Tonton have enjoyed the most growth compared to competitors, with video conferencing platforms also seeing enormous spikes in traffic.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

- John Lennon -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The number of Covid-19 infections globally is now at almost 880,000, with more than 43,000 deaths. You can keep track of the global numbers with this Reuters tracker. In the US, the number of cases has skyrocketed in a matter of hours to more than 210,000, with more than 4,600 dead. 
     
  • The Chinese county of Jia has been put under lockdown after a second wave of Covid-19 cases was detected. 
     
  • A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies from blood taken from Covid-19 patients who had recovered. The team says the antibodies are “extremely effective” in preventing the virus from entering cells and this could eventually lead to treating or curing the disease. 
     
  • We’re wondering why this New York Times piece seems to indirectly want to blame Asia for a “new wave” of the coronavirus. It says imported cases of Covid-19 are appearing in China and other Asian countries and this could mean problems for the West. Better this piece from CNN, which says the approach by Asian countries to advise the use of face masks, saying many other countries may soon come around to. 
     
  • Coronavirus fears have led to the tennis world’s summer grand slam tournament, Wimbledon, being canceled for the first time since World War II. 
     
  • Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger has died of Covid-19. The Grammy, Oscar and Golden-Globe nominated singer and songwriter was 52, and best known for his band’s 2003 hit, “Stacy’s Mom”.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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