The novel coronavirus is still hogging the vast majority of the news both overseas and here, so the major part of our focus today remains on this current blight which has already killed 131 (and rising fast!) and infected more than 4,000 people. Three new cases have popped up in Malaysia and there have been new reports from our neighbours both south and north of us. In other news, Malaysia has had its share of the scare from the new coronavirus from China; and, Jibby Razak denies appointing former AG Apandi Ali to the board of Tabung Haji as a reward for clearing him of wrongdoings. And to all our readers who celebrate the Lunar New Year, Gong Xi Fa Cai! May the year of the metal rat bring you prosperity and happiness!

Virus, virus everywhere

nCoV setting unwanted records

Breaking records isn’t always a good thing. Case in point, the novel coronavirus (nCoV). The fast-spreading illness has hit 5,496 people in mainland China, surpassing the 5,327 infected by SARS in 2003.

What’s really scary is that it took nine months for SARS to infect all those people; nCoV has done it in a just matter of weeks. 

At latest count, 131 people have been killed in China. For context, when we sent out our newsletter yesterday, that number stood at 80-something. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to defeat the “devil” and has promised to be transparent in sharing details of the virus to the world, acknowledging that it was previously not shared as quickly as it should have been.

Hong Kong, one of China’s special administrative regions, has moved to isolate itself by slashing flights in half, shutting all ferry services and closing most of its border crossings with the mainland. European experts say a German man is the first case of human-to-human infection in Europe, making it 17 countries now where the virus has spread.

Closer to home, Singapore has reported two more imported cases of infection, bringing the tally up to seven. Singapore health authorities say the new cases have no link to the previous five cases, meaning they didn’t contract the virus from the others.

Thailand, meanwhile, has recorded six more cases, bringing the kingdom’s total to 14. Five of the infections were from a single family from China and authorities are now planning on expanding screening of all visitors coming from the East Asian country.

Meanwhile, Malaysian scientist Cher Han Lau has created a website in an attempt to provide real-time updates and news on NcoV. The website, which he hopes will also counter fake news, can be reached here

The biggest question on most people’s minds now is, how bad is this gonna get? Well, the honest truth is that it’s really hard to say. So strap in, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

What's happening in Malaysia?

Three more nCoV cases have been confirmed in Malaysia, bringing our own tally of infections to seven. All three cases, said the Health Ministry, were tourists from China.

The Health Ministry is trying to assuage concerns over the spread of the virus, saying screenings have been beefed up at all entry points into Malaysia. The ministry has also added ships arriving from China to its quarantine list.

Even the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has gotten on the bandwagon,setting up a Tourism Recovery Committee to, among others, “provide advice and clarification” to tourists on Health Ministry-recommended steps to be taken to prevent infection during their stay in the country.

The biggest concern, apart from an epidemic occurring of course, is how this will affect Malaysia’s economy, especially tourism.

Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali doesn’t want to speculate on the possible effects, but concedes that a prolonged outbreak would be detrimental to the Malaysian economy. Wow! Who’d have guessed, huh? 🙄


The Sarawak government is preparing for a drop in tourism revenue due to the travel ban imposed over concerns about the outbreak, but quite bizarrely seems quite gleeful about the fact that it doesn’t expect to lose as much as Sabah will. What is this? Some game of oneupmanship between neighbouring states? Sheesh.

Airlines are definitely gonna feel the pinch. This is especially so for AirAsia, which announced an extension to its suspension of flights to Wuhan till at least the end of February. Now nobody can fly – to Wuhan at least.

Meanwhile, the Agong has ordered all mosques in the country to hold solat hajat (prayer of need) and doa selamat (prayer for safety) following the outbreak of the virus here. The King is following news of the virus and is deeply concerned for Malaysians both here and abroad. We’re gonna need all the divine help we can get, so we’re pretty sure similar prayers are going on in temples, tokongs, gurdwaras and churches in the country. 

But for every person who’s praying for a quick resolution to the problem, there seems to be another who’s happier to spread fake news. These political opportunists and keyboard physicians are causing so much alarm that IGP Abdul Hamid Bador has had to issue yet another warning, despite the authorities issuing a similar statement just a day prior.

The police were plan to question at least four people for spreading fake news about the virus. The nation’s top copper also warned against anyone inciting racial incidents.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian woman who traveled with her husband to Hubei province, where he was born, has told of her experiences under lock-down. Wanting to be known only as Ima, the woman said she and her husband were there to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family. Now, she says she doesn’t know when they will be able to return to Malaysia.

Is there an end in sight?

They say everyone suffers during a war, but weapons makers certainly profit. In the case of virus outbreaks, makers of medical equipment also profit.

And Malaysian glove makers do, too, apparently. Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association president Denis Low said its members here have received urgent requests from China for more gloves. He said association members will do their best to ensure an adequate supply of gloves to China.

But gloves, like face masks, are meant only to prevent human-to-human spread of the virus, and that too usually for medical professionals. To contain the virus, there needs to be a vaccine, and so far there are no vaccines available, much less a cure for nCoV.

American drug makers have been shipping HIV medicines to China to see if such drugs can help treat those infected with the virus. They hope the medicines can inhibit the coronavirus by blocking protease enzymes within cells which are needed to produce new viruses. Chinese health authorities, in fact, have recommended the use of a drug called Kaletra for those infected by nCoV.

But how far, exactly, are we from getting a vaccine or cure? Several months, at least, apparently.

Chinese scientists have isolated the virus and determined its genetic makeup, two important early steps in understanding nCoV and, eventually, figuring out how to stop it. And, more importantly, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has shared its findings with the international community in a timely manner.

What this means is that the world can now work in tandem with China to develop both a cure and a vaccine. So now, there is a greater chance to defeat nCoV, and in a shorter time too.

The US National Institutes of Health have already begun the work, but says the process will be “long and uncertain”.

In other words, nCoV is probably not gonna go away anytime soon. For now, all we can do is isolate those who are infected and keep our fingers crossed while those more intelligent than us work on getting things done.

Non-viral news

We figure you, like us, would love to know what else is happening in the country, besides nCoV. So, here are some bits of news we thought might interest you:
 

  • The Water Services Industry Act will be amended to impose harsher penalties on polluters and give the authorities the power to arrest people. We couldn’t agree more with this move, considering the frequent water cuts people have had to suffer thanks to polluters.
     
  • The Shah Alam High Court has granted an application by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to set aside contempt proceedings against him in relation to the coroner’s inquest into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim brought by the latter’s father, Mohd Kassim Abdul Hamid. The court said Mohd Kassim had disclosed only facts which supported his application to the coroner for contempt proceedings to be initiated.
     
  • The alleged drug lord at the centre of the massive RM2 billion cocaine bust in Penang last year has had more than RM300 million in assets seized by police. The kingpin is said to be on the run in a foreign country at the moment. Talk about living large.
     
  • One of two teens charged with the murder of 23 people in a fire at a tahfiz school in 2017 was ordered to enter his defence while the other was acquitted. Both broke down in tears when trial judge Azman Abdullah delivered judgment.
     
  • Police are still waiting for the results of pathology tests from a drug bust at a Puchong condominium on Jan 12, including that taken from Dengkil assemblyman Adhif Syan Abdullah. We know there must be a backlog of samples for testing at the Chemistry Department, but this is bordering on the ridiculous.
     
  • After listening to advice from his lawyer, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim won’t be proceeding with a defamation lawsuit against former research assistant Yusoff Rawther, who had accused him of unwanted sexual advances. Yusoff’s lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, meanwhile, says it’s weird and contradictory (his words, not ours) for Anwar to drop the suit. Quite frankly, though, we find it weird too. 
     
  • PKR’s slow-motion implosion is continuing. In the latest episode, party veep Zuraida Kamaruddin is being sued for defamation by sec-gen Saifuddin Nasution. And Zee will also need to go to the party HQ today to respond to a show-cause letter issued by the party’s disciplinary board. At what point will all parties realise this toxic and abusive relationship should just end?Just kiss and say goodbye, people!

“Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings.”

- Publilius Syrus -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US President Donald Trump has unveiled a Middle East peace plan which favours Israel. It allows for Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements and other demands the Jewish state has demanded. Needless to say, the Palestinians aren’t exactly jumping for joy. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, however, says the international body was committed to, and confident in the success of, a peace plan based on pre-1967 borders.
     
  • Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, have wrapped up their third and final day of opening arguments, calling for acquittal at El Presidente’s impeachment trial.
     
  • major earthquake in the Caribbean measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale shook buildings in Miami, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, triggering evacuations and a tsunami alert. The alert passed without incident, however, with no reports of death or injury.
     
  • Fellow pilots and experts are wondering if the experienced pilot of the helicopter in which former NBA star Kobe Bryant and daughter were killed along with seven others had been pressured into flying in low visibility.
     
  • The Washington Post hasn’t covered itself in glory this week. It first suspended one of its reporters after she’d tweeted an old story about Kobe Bryant’s rape case a few years ago, giving a bunch of, frankly, bullshit reasons for her suspension. And then, after getting widely slammed for its actions, it yesterday reversed her suspension. Not just dumb, but indecisive too. Champions.

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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