Cautious optimism needed?
The good, the bad and the ugly
After only a day of having double-digit increases in the number of new Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, the number went back up past 100, but only just a little over.
There were 110 new cases and one death announced yesterday, bringing the totals to 5,182 and 84, respectively. But there were 119 recoveries (for a total of 2,766), continuing a general trend of higher recovery numbers than new cases over the past week or so.
These numbers are lower than a projection by researchers at JPMorgan last month, who predicted that we would hit our peak in mid-April with around 6,300 cases. At 5,182 now, we’re well below that.
So far, so good. But, is there cause for optimism? Let’s take a look at a few other things.
Penang, Kedah and Perlis have for several days now seen no new cases, and are now under a 14-day monitoring period before they can be declared “green states”. Excellent.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with PM Muhyiddin Yassin, where only Covid-19 was discussed (and not politics), shows our leaders are coming together to try to find the best way to battle the virus, regardless of political affiliation. So, yeah, another reason for optimism.
New rapid test kits are on order from South Korea, which will allow mass testing to be carried out. The Health Ministry is also going to focus on testing senior citizens and foreign workers. Another plus point in efforts to fight Covid-19.
Speaking of migrant workers – there are no clusters among foreigners so far. That’s fantastic, especially when you consider how vulnerable they are to easy transmission and contraction due to the nature of their mainly manual-labour jobs as well as their living conditions, with many people packed into small living spaces.
Our next-door neighbours Singapore is a prime example of this. Of their record 728 new cases, 654 originated in foreign workers’ dorms.
And this is why the need for caution has to continue. All it takes is one case for another cluster to emerge, and for things to spike again. In many situations, population density – many people living in one unit, or many units packed into flats and condos – will make for easy transmission of the virus if we drop our guard.
Our current data also shows that more than half the 5,182 cases detected here were undisclosed infections, which means people either didn’t know or didn’t say they had been possibly exposed. Even more worrying? New studies show that Covid-19 patients are most infectious even before their symptoms appear.
This explains the stringent moves put in place so far, such as screening residents in the locked-down Masjid India area, and those working in essential industries. The government has also decided there will be no Ramadan bazaars in KL this year, not even drive-thru ones or e-bazaars. When Malaysians stop thinking with their stomachs, you know something is really out of whack.
We are also going to employ a new zoning system which theoretically will be able to give a better picture of the Covid-19 situation. With Kota Kinabalu now joining the list of red zones, the sooner the new system is in place, the better.
But all caution will be for naught if fools among us continue taking the MCO lightly. Nearly 15,000 people were flagged for MCO violations in phases 1 and 2 of the MCO, and another 300-plus on the first day of Phase 3. We have people getting together for birthday parties and gambling, and a trio who decided they needed to get their golf game on. Even our elected leaders are doing daft things (no surprise there, actually), with one Melaka assemblyman now being investigated for holding three events.
So yeah, we can perhaps start to breathe a little easier. But just don’t break out the champagne yet.
Stay focused, kids
The government’s decision to cancel the UPSR and PT3 exams and postpone higher level exams may have been met with enthusiasm by students nationwide, but teachers have mixed reactions to the move.
Those who are against it, though, are mainly concerned students will not be able to cope with the extra workload. They are also concerned with their students’ focus, foreseeing a drop in attendance of online classes.
The cancellations was a major decision, yes, but necessary considering the disruption to studies caused by the MCO. Still, concerns are real, and even former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad has acknowledged them, advising students to remain focused, and to use current technology and the time created by the MCO wisely.
Meanwhile, there’ve been calls for the United Examination Certificate exams to be postponed, while a former deputy health minister has advised the government not to open schools again until the number of new daily Covid-19 cases have dropped to single digits and when coronavirus test results can be obtained within 24 hours instead of the current two to three days.
Anyway, here are some other bits of Covid-related news which appeared yesterday:
- Pakatan wants to meet with the government and the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to broker a special sitting of Parliament to discuss Covid-19.
- Data compiled by the Health Ministry shows those aged 20-24 and 56-59 are most vulnerable to Covid-19 infection.
- The Public Service Department has warned officers who force their staff to work at their respective offices, in violation of the MCO, that disciplinary action can be taken against them. Cuepacs, the public sector union umbrella body, meanwhile, says civil servants found guilty of violating the MCO can lose their pensions.
- The International Trade and Industry Ministry has released an amended list of businesses allowed to operate during the MCO as well as SOPs they need to obey. Its minister, Azmin Ali, has defended the ministry after it was criticised for allowing hair dressers to operate during MCO Phase 3, a decision later rescinded. His excuse? All decisions were made after consultation with the Health Ministry. If we’d given our parents such excuses when we were kids, the answer would have been “so if they ask you to jump off a cliff, you’ll do it ah?”.
- Crime rates may be down in KL during the MCO, but it appears that criminals are getting smarter as Selangor cops have received reports of RM1.9 million worth of losses to online scams.
- Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad has come under fire for visiting UiTM’s test lab for Covid-19 during the MCO and wearing PPE during the visit, at a time when there’s a shortage of such equipment for frontliners. Serves her right.
- In happier news, a policewoman on MCO patrol at Dataran Todak in Kota Kinabalu on Wednesday night, helped a woman deliver a baby girl as the latter couldn’t get to hospital in time.
Meanwhile, in other news
Life goes on during the MCO, of course, so here are some other articles that are not Covid-related:
- The remand of a police inspector suspected of having raped two Mongolian women has been extended a further two days. The officer is being investigated for rape and offences under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act.
- Former Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok aimed a sly dig at her successor, Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, for continuing bamboo-planting-related policies despite hammering the idea when she mooted it as minister. Oh, so you mean like how you and your friends slammed BN for the Lynas rare earth plant, only to U-turn the moment you got into Putrajaya, Teresa? Or when you guys did the same thing over the ECRL? 🙄
- Meanwhile, all is definitely not well in PKR. Melaka Wanita chief Ginie Lim slammed her party, accusing it of using the MCO to conduct a witch hunt and suspend senior figures like national Wanita chief Haniza Talha and sack Batu Lintan assemblyman See Chee How. The women’s wing heads of Perak, Kuala Lumpur and Penang also issued statements scolding the party for its actions.
- PKR head honcho Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, says while he doesn’t agree with how PAS came to power in the present government, he also doesn’t agree with suggestions that PAS-led public policies have the potential to destroy the country. That’s Anwar for you, isn’t it? Using very many words to say not very much and to keep all his options open.
- Former minister and Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Abdul Wahid Omar is apparently set to take over as chairman of Bursa Malaysia Bhd.
- The corruption trial of Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin and celebrity wife Zizie A. Samad, for receiving bribes totalling more than RM2.4 million, will resume on April 29.
- Meanwhile, Nooryana Najwa Najib, daughter of former PM Jibby Razak and Mama Rosie Mansor, has filed a bid to stay a lawsuit by the Inland Revenue Board to get RM10.3 million in unpaid taxes from her.
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide has risen to more than 2.1 million infections and over 140,000 deaths. This Reuters tracker, as of time of writing, reveals that the US alone accounts for 668,000 cases and 32,000 deaths.
- Seven states in the East Coast of the US, meanwhile, have extended lockdowns to May 15, even as US President Donald Trump was set to unveil a three-phase plan to reopen state economies with a new set of guidelines.
- Despite the massive numbers of new cases recorded daily, Trump believes the worst has passed in terms of the pandemic in the US. This, even as the UK has extended its lockdown for at least three more weeks and Japan has declared a nationwide state of emergency.
- Meanwhile, after Trump removed American funding for the World Health Organization, Republicans have backed their president by calling for the resignation of its head, while the White House claimed G7 leaders were united in seeking reforms at the UN body, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming out in defence of it.
- In what we believe is the first case of its kind, police in India have brought culpable homicide charges against the head of a Muslim seminary in New Delhi for last month’s tabligh that is said to have been responsible for a surge in Covid-19 cases.
- Veteran actor Brian Dennehy has died at 81. Dennehy, who died of natural causes, is perhaps best known for his role as a small town sheriff and Sylvester Stallone’s antagonist in the first Rambo movie, First Blood.