If you thought Covid-19 was scary earlier, the weekend would've definitely given you the heebie-jeebies. A spate of new infections were confirmed, nearly doubling the total number of people struck down in the country. Elsewhere, catfights over the new government continue and a news reporter comes under a disgusting attack thanks to a social media post by one of our new ministers.

Massive jump in Covid-19 cases

190 cases in one day

Folks, things are starting to get crazy. 

On Friday, we had 200 cases of Covid-19 infections in the country. By noon yesterday, that number had shot up to 428 cases, with a whopping 190 new infections announced on Sunday alone. That is the highest number of cases in a day recorded in Malaysia.

Most of the cases are linked to the cluster that sprang up from the three-day gathering at the Masjid Jamek in at Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur in late-Feb, which was attended by some 16,000 people.

Malaysia is now the country with the fourth-highest number of infections in Asia, after only China, South Korea and Japan. As of now, nine people are in the ICU. That said, we’re not the only ones that had a lousy weekend. Singapore recorded the highest one-day jump as well, with 14 cases confirmed on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Philippines is in panic, with 140 people infected and at least 12 dead so far. Worldwide, over 150,000 people have been infected and 6,000-plus people killed by the virus.

It feels like everywhere you look, new infection vectors are popping up. In Sarawak, Sarikei MP Wong Ling Biu has tested positive, causing the state DAP to advise any reps who’ve come into close contact with him to observe self-quarantine. We’ve yet to come across a politician who doesn’t love shaking hands and pressing the flesh, so God only knows how many people he may have inadvertently infected. 

Similarly, a speaker at a Universiti Malaya programme was later found to have been positive. While the university has disinfected the venue in Petaling Jaya where it happened, it remains to be seen if any of the attendees caught the virus from the speaker. 

What still remains most troubling though, is the possibility of infection at religious gatherings, which seem to be going on despite advice by all and sundry to postpone or cancel events with large crowds of people. 

This is especially worrying considering they are attended by hordes of migrant workers, who are far harder to track than Malaysians and more reluctant to seek medical help when they fall ill.

The latest concern is a Hindu festival in Teluk Bahang, Penang, which was attended by 30,000 people(!). And while Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy says the event was held on March 8 – before the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic – it was still something that should have not been held considering the illness was already escalating by then. If we keep attending large religious events despite advice, somebody is soon gonna be able to talk to the Almighty face-to-face.

Here’s how big Covid-19 is becoming: the number of people infected has grown by almost 20X from the 24 infections recorded when the second wave was detected on Feb 27, just over two weeks ago. 

It’s a big enough problem for the government to hold a special meeting today, for experts to urge it to be treated as a national security threat, and people like Rafidah Aziz to call for the entire government to be mobilised to tackle the problem. That said, for every level-headed call out there, there are those with large social media followings who are putting out unnecessary and, frankly, irresponsible conspiracy theories which only serve to confuse and panic people more. For shame!

There are four stages of severity during an outbreak – onset, early containment, late containment and mitigation. We are now already at the late containment stage, and Health Minister Adham Baba says we need to take drastic action. These are the “drastic actions” the government can take under Section 15 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease Act 1988.

Anyway, here’s what’s likely to happen in the coming days and weeks. More infections will crop up. More companies will establish work from home policies, or even force staff to go on leave. School holidays may be extended and universities may not hold classes in order to minimise contact among kids. The country may even go into lockdown like Italy if cases don’t come under control. The economy is gonna continue to suffer. And eventually, we are going to see our first death. This isn’t fear-mongering – they’re just the sober facts. 

But we can still do our parts to stay safe and minimise transmission. Here’s a full list of what you can do, but this is the TL;DR version: Reduce contact with other people. Sanitise hands often. Cover your mouths and noses if you cough or sneeze. 

And if you think you are falling ill, DO NOT go see a doctor as a) if you have coronavirus, you can infect everyone in the clinic, and b) you will take up precious time and resources, such as test kits, needed for more urgent cases. Instead, quarantine yourself and call the Health Ministry’s hotline and they will advise you should you need to go in for testing.

Government of the people?

We don’t know what sort of wacky tobaccy Wee Ka Siong is smoking, but we’d really like a hit from his bong. 

The MCA president is insisting PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s new government isn’t a primarily Malay-Muslim one, but one that reflects Malaysian diversity. 

Considering Wee represents the entire sum of Chinese ministers in Cabinet, while MIC deputy president M Saravanan is the only Indian minister, it looks like Wee is either fooling himself or trying to fool us. 

It certainly looks like he’s trying his best to convince himself that everything is dandy, saying he’s “amazed” at the maturity of Malaysia’s democracy in changing governments. We agree – Malaysia’s “democracy” is certainly amazing. 

Wee and his hallucinations aside, the new government is not getting off on the best foot and the first big target of criticism is the deputy Women, Family and Community Development minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.

Umno’s Pengerang MP and former minister Azalina Othman has trained her guns on Siti Zailah, warning her not to use religion to manipulate laws that protect kids, and to allow predators to marry children. Siti Zailah, a PAS MP, had previously voiced her support for underage marriage. Azalina’s tweet got widespread support, including from Siti Zailah’s predecessor, Hannah Yeoh.

The next to hammer Siti Zailah was former Debate Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman as well as the country’s flight attendants union, who questioned the politician’s priorities in suggesting attendants wear syariah-compliant uniforms on flights. Both of them asked if the question was relevant or necessary at a time when the industry is facing job cuts over the Covid-19 outbreak. 

They’ve hit the nail on the head – Siti Zailah should be focusing on how to help women and families impacted by Covid-19 and the worsening economy instead of fixating on what they are wearing or not wearing.

But hey, did you expect anything other than PAS sensibilities – moral policing and overbearing religiosity – when they appointed a PAS person to the post? The big question though, is if Siti Zailah’s boss Rina Harun is ever going to wake up, take control of her ministry and actually start doing some work. That said, the general consensus seems to be that both the minister and her deputy are basically useless.

With all of this happening (you’ll read about the other problematic minister in the section below), as well as the deep unhappiness over Muhyiddin’s Cabinet appointments, we wonder if the government will make it through the so-called make-or-break first year.

Even Umno bigwigs seem concerned about the depth of unhappiness at the way things are unfolding, with party deputy president Mohamad Hasan claiming there could be a schism due to Umno being sidelined, and ex-sec gen (and now-minister) Annuar Musa calling on his party colleagues to stop their sniping

All of this would be highly entertaining if it weren’t for the fact the country is going through a public health crisis while its economy is going down the shitter as all this stupid politicking is going on.

It really feels like a bunch of Neros are fiddling while Rome is burning around them.

FB does jack as journo attacked

Malaysiakini journalist Kow Gah Chie has become the unfortunate target of online harassment after a Facebook user took exception to a story she wrote. 

Kow wrote this story, in which our brand new Environment Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man seemed to defend logging in PAS-run Kelantan. Kow’s headache began when Tuan Ibrahim, the PAS deputy president, said her report was “inaccurate”. 

Somebody – clearly a supporter of Tuan Ibrahim – put up a Facebook post, implied Kow made the whole story up as the question was never allegedly asked during the press conference. He identified Kow by uploading her photo, made reference to her race and stated that Malaysiakini was out to divide Muslims. 

Malaysiakini stood by the report, saying the question was asked in a doorstep interview (meaning Ibby was prodded outside of the press conference). But that didn’t stop the torrent of abuse. The FB post went viral, shared over 2,900 times and getting over 2,200 comments. Kow was repeatedly called a “pig” and some commenters suggested she should be physically harmed. And that’s just a sampling of the hate speech, racial insults and body shaming she had to face.

Kow had to endure this cyberbullying for almost FOUR DAYS before the offending post was finally taken down, despite the fact it was plain to anyone with an ounce of common sense that the post and comments were horribly nasty.

Plain to anyone, that is, but, our supreme digital overlords, Facebook. The post was removed briefly, only for it to be reinstated upon review, with the social media giants telling everyone, including Kow herself (who repeatedly tried to report the post), that it didn’t violate the online platform’s Community Standards – the same “standards” which specifically states Facebook disallows hate speech.

Facebook’s deafening silence continued until Malaysiakini decided to write a news report about it. Then and only then (because it became an issue of bad publicity?) did FB remove the post for, you guessed it, violating Community Standards. No explanation as to why this was not the case before.

It didn’t help matters that despite denouncing the attack on Kow, Tuan Ibrahim continued to maintain that the story was inaccurate (he at no point actually specified what was wrong about it) – a cop-out often used by politicians when they want to backtrack on comments to the media, and that only serves to fuel online vitriol.

But let’s get back to FB for a bit. This is not the first time it’s failed to protect users from harassment. For all its talk, Facebook’s system of policing standards is broken. Far too much of an onus is also placed on users to report offending posts, as in Malaysiakini’s case (and even this had no result!).

Not only is such abuse mentally damaging, there is also the risk of it escalating beyond cyberspace to actual physical harm. Kow was targeted to silence her and Malaysiakini. Women in particular – including women journalists, politicians and activists, are often targets of doxxing and such personalised attacks; it’s a legitimate safety concern (This report on Twitter is highly depressing). 

It’s time social media giants take greater responsibility for users’ safety. It didn’t take a genius to see the post against Kow was wrong, and it shouldn’t have to take days of pressure and a news report for action to be taken. Shame on you FB.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

- Benjamin Franklin -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

If you think the shit is hitting the fan in Malaysia, wait till you see what’s happening around the world. Covid-19 is pretty much the ONLY international story of note right now.

  • The death toll in Europe soared, with four states recording their deadliest single-day figures. 368 people died in Italy, brining the total death toll there to 1,809. 97 were killed in Spain for a total of 288. 29 lives were lost in France, with 120 dead so far. In the UK, 14 people died and the total death toll now stands at 35. Governments on the continent have closed borders and curbed movements of citizens.
     
  • Here’s a random sampling of the effects of the outbreak. The US has cut interest rates almost to zero and launched a $700 bil stimulus package to combat the effects of Covid-19. Ireland has asked pubs to close(!!). Cruise ships are stranded at sea. Pope Francis delivered his papal blessing to an empty St. Peter’s Square. And American airports were thrown into chaos due to health screenings. Fun times.
     
  • In the US, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are squaring off in a debate as both bid to win the Democratic ticket for the presidential race. With Covid-19 in the air, both septuagenarians will be debating without a live audience. Their podiums will also be six feet apart. 
     
  • Benny Gantz, a centrist politician, has won a narrow majority of support from Israel’s politicians – including Arab lawmakers – to form the country’s new government. Gantz is battling to depose hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in power for 11 years.

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.

trident media logo

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

Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap