Is there truth in the numbers? The number of new daily Covid-19 cases have consistently been in the double-digits over the past few days. But are they a true reflection of actual infections in Malaysia? Or will mass testing, especially of foreign workers, prove otherwise? Meanwhile, a new cluster has been identified in Johor, people in Selayang (now under enhanced movement control order, or EMCO) are starving, business owners are worried about the post-MCO period and Muslims have been advised to not balik kampung for Ramadan and Raya this year.

Is there truth in the numbers?

The truth, the whole truth?

It’s been a mixed bag of things as far as Covid-19 is concerned over the past few days.
 
On the bright side, the number of new cases nationwide has been consistently in double digits. And yesterday, recoveries (103) outnumbered new cases (50) by 2-to-1, though one person died. Those numbers brought the total infections to 5,532 cases, 3,452 recoveries (representing about 62% of all cases) and 93 deaths. Malaysia’s green zones have also increased to 65, including the entire state of Perlis. Six states now have districts with zero active cases. 
 
Malaysia enrolled its first patient in the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trial, which is trying to find the best drug to treat Covid-19. Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says Malaysia has the potential to co-produce a vaccine (truly Malaysia Boleh!) and is in talks with several countries which are able to manufacture such a vaccine. 
 
But does this mean the MCO may be lifted come April 29? It’s a little too soon to tell, with Noor Hisham saying the Health Ministry will soon give its advice to the government. We suspect all of this could happen sometime soon – possibly even as early as today or tomorrow.
 
But don’t hold your breath on the lifting of the MCO. We may see a relaxing of some orders, but a total removal is likely not on the cards. We still have idiots flouting the regulations, including these jokers who did it to gamble and drink. So can you imagine if things go back to normal? Also, new clusters are still being discovered, such as this one in Pengerang, Johor.
 
Meanwhile, although Noor Hisham has said there would be an all-out effort to curb the spread of the virus among foreign workers here, including undocumented ones, not many have been screened, for a number of reasons.

One is because we still don’t have the capacity for mass testing for the entire country – plus, there’s been a delay in the shipment of rapid test kits from South Korea which are now only likely to arrive next week. As such, Malaysia will stick to targeted testing at identified locations and high risks groups – including identified groups of migrants. Noor Hisham is swearing by this method, though, because of the success rate he says it has generated. 
 
Secondly, we really can’t expect illegal migrants to come forward for testing even if they think they may be at risk, considering they would most likely end up in an immigration depot and eventually be bundled home. This is despite the Immigration Department suspending operations to nab illegal foreigners.
 
Third, how we treat people under the enhanced MCO will be an indication to foreigners as to whether they will be treated fairly when they come forward. At the Selangor and Malayan Mansion flats in Masjid India, where the vast majority are migrant workers, people were left hungry until DBKL stepped in. Same goes for Selayang now, where there are a large number of foreigners; people were reportedly not getting food aid for days. It was left to DBKL to promise food and only then did Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob step in with the same promise
 
There are an estimated 200,000 refugees and 2-3 million foreign workers in Malaysia – a huge number. So, the way we treat these foreigners is going to matter – as proven by the travails of our cousins across the Causeway.
 
Not for the first time, the number of cases in Singapore jumped by more than 1,000 in a single day and now totals more than 10,000. The vast majority are foreign workers. In fact, of the new cases yesterday, only 15 are Singaporean citizens or permanent residents! 

The end is nigh?

Two days ago, Noor Hisham said the framework for a post-MCO “soft landing” was still being worked out and he listed six things that need to happen before the order can even be lifted. That must have given hope to many. 
 
One trade group – the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia – however, has come out to say that businesses are worried they will incur extra health costs (spot the snafu in the headline for that article). The group says business owners want a clear SOP for post-MCO operations. 
 
For now, however, we are still under MCO and Noor Hisham has advised Malaysians not to balik kampung during Ramadan, which starts tomorrow. This comes in light of Ismail Sabri saying those who wish to travel out of state should inform the authorities. 
 
In fact, de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri says while Hari Raya should be celebrated (with the required prayers), Muslims should forego traditions like visiting other people and postpone open houses. Man, this Raya is gonna be such a weird one. 🙁
 
Anyhoo, as usual, here’s the rest of the most important Covid-related news that came out yesterday:

  • Noor Hisham says all cases of cough and flu-like symptoms must be viewed as possible Covid-19 cases after 45 general practitioners were diagnosed with the coronavirus. 
     
  • The Health DG has been acclaimed a national hero, but he has been quick to downplay his role, and instead is paying tribute to his “four generals”: deputy DGs Dr Rohaizat Yon, Dr Chong Chee Keong and Dr Hishamsham Mohd Ibrahim, as well as Disease Control Division director Dr Norhayati Rusli. 
     
  • The Immigration Department will introduce new SOPs for entry of foreigners once the MCO is lifted to curb the possible spread of Covid-19. 
     
  • Bank Negara says it has sufficient reserves to finance nearly eight months’ worth of imports. 
     
  • Some medical staff are complaining that not all frontliners are entitled to the special allowance announced by PM Moo recently. Apparently, only those who are required to wear personal protective equipment and those who work 14 days or more are entitled. Not cool.
     
  • There will be stringent prevention measures in place for the one-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on May 18. Meanwhile, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang has called for Parliament to be declared an essential service and a virtual sitting should be held for at least 10 days. Good suggestion by Uncle Kit. We wouldn’t want anybody to use the MCO as an excuse to deprive us of our democratic rights, would we?
     
  • In a first of its kind, at least here, the Court of Appeal will live-stream several proceedings today, thanks to the MCO. However, some lawyers have warned that such a move may invalidate the proceedings without amendments to the Courts of Judicature Act and court rules. 
     
  • Despite the government saying that people only need to wear face masks if they are sick, Malaysia Airlines is enforcing the use of the masks for all passengers at all touchpoints, including in aircraft cabins. That’s gonna make for extremely uncomfortable flights for the claustrophobes among us.
     
  • In case you missed it, we published a special report yesterday on the severe toll Covid-19 is taking on all our mental health. We may be biased but we think this piece is worth a read and a share as it goes in-depth into an area that hasn’t been focused on much.

All things non-Covid

Last but not least, here are the most important non-Covid stories that came out yesterday:

  • Singapore’s Straits Times says PM8 Muhyiddin is moving to shore up his administration’s position by replacing appointments made by the previous government (no shit!) and in so doing has unravelled efforts to empower women leaders (oh shit!). It says several women have already been removed and more are expected to fall. 
     
  • Meanwhile, former Selangor Umno liaison committee chairman Noh Omar is back in the position more than a year after resigning, saying his focus is now on the Muafakat Nasional alliance with PAS and recapturing the state from Pakatan Harapan. 
     
  • Times High Education’s Impact Ranking for 2020 has listed Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Malaya in its Top 100 for sustainability. 
     
  • Penang recorded a historic high of RM16.9 billion in investments for 2019. Expect that to fall this year, however, since Covid-19 has deeply affected world economies. 
     
  • Former defence minister Liew Chin Tong, who is already quite the media darling, we can tell you, is ingratiating himself even more with Malaysian media. He says Putrajaya should emulate Australia in compelling big tech firms like Facebook and Google to share their advertising revenues with local media companies for content from which they profit. 
     
  • MCA Youth chief Nicole Wong has lodged a police report over threats of rape and death to her and her young daughter. This is just sickening.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • There are now more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases globally, with more than 180,000 deaths. The number of deaths in France has climbed to more than 21,000, the fourth highest in the world and just a few hundred behind Spain. 
     
  • The US, which has the highest number of cases and deaths at more than 820,000 and 45,000 respectively, will have to alter its coronavirus timeline after two people who died in early- and mid-February tested positive for Covid-19 during autopsies. Earlier reports put the first Covid-19 death on Feb 26. 
     
  • WHO says the world has a long way to go in the battle against the novel coronavirus. It also gave the lie to some claims that China had produced Covid-19 in a lab, saying evidence suggests the virus came from animals
     
  • The former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority, the US body involved in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, said he was removed from his office on Tuesday in retaliation for resistance against the use of a drug pushed by President Donald Trump.
     
  • Face masks will be made compulsory all across Germany, as part of the country’s continued efforts to combat Covid-19. Who’d have thought we’d live in a time when the guy at a bank WITHOUT a mask on would be considered out of place? 
     
  • Amid mounting tensions with Iran after the Islamic republic’s navy allegedly harassed US ships, Trump tweeted he had ordered US Navy warships to shoot down and destroy Iranian gunboats. 
     
  • Canadian police have been criticised for their failure to use a provincial alert system to warn the public that a gunman was at large for up to 13 hours after he murdered the first of his 22 victims over the weekend. 

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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