It’s D-Day yet again. Will we have to go through a further period of movement control order (MCO), or will this second phase end on April 14? PM Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to announce this today, after he is briefed by Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in the morning.

Muhyiddin will have lots of things to consider, and not just whether the number of Covid-19 infections have come down enough to lift the MCO. We take a look at some of the things he will have to think about, and what alternatives are left to him.

Also, we'd like to wish Christians a Happy and Blessed Easter in advance.

To extend, or not to extend

What will the Moo do?

So, what are the chances the MCO will be lifted and we will be allowed to step out of our homes freely? Well, Selangor police are so sure they actually said in a press conference that the MCO will probably be extended.
 
Is this a case of jumping the gun? Perhaps. Especially since Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah is only set to brief PM Muhyiddin Yassin today on the options available. To do that, Noor Hisham and his team will be looking at case projection models and data points like the number of safe and danger zones at present, as well as the number of cases in each state, district and locality. 

Even if the MCO is lifted, don’t expect it to be business as usual from April 15 onwards, as not all freedoms will be returned. 
 
Analysts had earlier predicted Covid-19 would peak here in mid-April. One of the reasons behind that forecast was the expected return of Malaysians abroad, which is why the government introduced mandatory quarantine centres for those coming home.

Luckily, we’ve not exactly hit the “heights” all these analysts have predicted. But there is still a lot to do. Though we have among the lowest death rates in the world, we are still hitting triple digits when it comes to new cases daily, and we’ve been doing so since March 15, three days before MCO Phase 1 began. 
 
The latest tally of Covid-19 infections here was 4,228 cases, with 109 new cases as of noon yesterday. There were two more deaths, including the youngest victim so far, a 23-year-old student. This brings the total deaths to 67. Recoveries now stand at 1,608, with 121 being discharged from hospitals.  
 
Re the MCO extension – there are lots of other things Moo and his Cabinet will have to consider. One is the public pressure to extend the MCO. About 88% of people who took part in a National Security Council online poll want the MCO to be extended. Others, including the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, also call for an extension. 
 
On the flip side, the Malaysian Medical Association president and a number of past presidents have called for a stepwise relaxation of the MCO. So, too, a group of local researchers who suggest the MCO be lifted, albeit in staggered phases, according to each location’s outbreak levels. However, they warn the government cannot simply lift the MCO in its entirety, or a third wave of infections would ensue. Researchers studying China have also urged caution for countries looking to lift its lockdowns, especially as no vaccine is available yet.
 
The economy is a huge factor for consideration. A Department of Statistics survey showed almost half of self-employed respondents have lost their jobs and were financially unable to withstand an extension. Muhyiddin will also have to consider whether the government can afford to keep helping the people. A call from the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations that the MCO not be extended unless the government can continue paying monthly aid to low-income earners will also surely keep ringing in his ears. 
 
So, are there any indications as to whether the MCO will be extended? Well, if this story is to be believed, then yes, with more businesses allowed to resume, albeit in a controlled environment. This would mean businesses other than essential services may reopen (hello barber anneh?). But you can probably forget about sitting in your favourite mamak and enjoying a cuppa and a roti or two. Jogging? We’ll have to wait and see.

We will just have to see what our glorious leader announces later today. Whatever it is, it ain’t gonna be easy and we don’t envy Moo. If he could turn back time, do you think he’d go back and choose to not open the backdoor and step into the PM hotseat?

Please sir, can I have some more?

Migrant workers in the Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion flats in KL are now, happily, receiving food aid while on enhanced MCO lockdown, after Wednesday’s shocking news that the gomen wouldn’t provide for them. But two other claims, one involving foreign workers in another building and another of non-existent food aid, have come to light. 
 
Foreign workers at Menara City One, another building under lockdown in KL, are worried they won’t be able to get much-needed medicines and food which are fast running out. The building has been under lockdown since March 31, and what little they have won’t last them for much longer. 
 
Meanwhile, there are claims Orang Asli are left to fend for themselves as far as food is concerned during the MCO. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob refuted this, saying some RM5 million in food had been distributed to more than 850 Orang Asli villages. But the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns is having none of that. They say not all families are getting the aid, citing one Pahang community of 136 families which had received only 65 food aid packages, definitely not enough for one package per family. 

Equally worrying is the claim by Pakatan Harapan MPs that food aid for their constituencies is being disrupted due to political interference from the government. If this is true, and people are really playing politics at a time of national and global crisis, it really is the lowest of the low. 

Some other coronavirus-related news happened yesterday, and here they are in brief (kinda):

  • The Inland Revenue Board has clarified that some MPs and VIPs have qualified for the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional payments because the payments are based on taxes filed in 2018. Rubbish. They’ve been MPs since 2018, and MPs earn quite a bit. And even if they weren’t MPs before May 9 that year, surely they didn’t earn so little that they qualified for BPN. Something seriously stinks here.
     
  • Malaysia is still searching for reliable fast testing kits to be used in the field as none of the ones the Health Ministry had tested so far have proven reliable. 
     
  • PM Muhyiddin met with British High Commissioner Charles Hay to discuss broader bilateral cooperation to combat Covid-19. Shouldn’t the first step in combatting Covid-19 be eliminating unnecessary mask-to-mask meetings? Couldn’t it have been done over the phone or videoconference? Sheesh. You’d think they’d know better.
     
  • Fitch Ratings has revised its outlook for Malaysia from stable to negative, thanks to the pandemic, but maintains the country’s “A-“ rating as a long-term foreign currency issuer. Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, however, said that other advanced and emerging economies have also had their outlooks lowered. On the up side, Fitch has predicted a healthy 5.8% growth for Malaysia’s economy in 2021. 
     
  • Speaking of money, moneylenders and pawnbrokers have agreed to a three-month moratorium to help ease the burden on borrowers. Moneylenders not hassling you for your interest? The world really IS coming to an end!
     
  • While there were reports of people complaining about the conditions of quarantine centres they’ve been placed in two days ago, it appears others are happy and thankful. These include several whom the government had “rescued” from being stranded overseas. They have lauded the efforts of the gomen and the facilities in which they have been placed. 
     
  • While all the attention has been focused on frontliners such as medical personnel, and the cops and soldiers enforcing the MCO, there are those who are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure our safety and comfort during this trying period. So spare a thought for those who are keeping clean our cities, towns, streets and public facilities, as well as FAMA staff who are working round-the-clock to ensure we have adequate food supply. 
     
  • And finally, we have this heart-warming tale. Netizens, especially animal lovers, have fallen in love with Corporal Mohd Azad Azady Mohamad Tarmizee after a video clip of the cop saving a puppy from a monsoon drain went viral. Mohd Azad was on a snap check while on duty on Covid-19 operations when he heard the puppy barking. Well done, sir. You are a credit to the force and to humanity.

Bits and bobs

So, some other stuff happened yesterday that we thought you might be interested to read about, none of which are related to that pesky virus that’s been causing us so much trouble. Here they are:

  • A letter written in Arabic and purportedly sent to Muslim leaders worldwide by Malaysian special envoy to the Middle East Abdul Hadi Awang has gotten PM-no-longer-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim all riled up. The letter apparently identifies Anwar as a Freemason, and the PKR president vows he will tell the Muslim leaders it is not him. We’re REALLY glad Anwar and Hadi have the time to indulge in this nonsense while the rest of us are stuck and home and worried for our lives.
     
  • The Federal Court has set Sept 22 to hear an appeal by former moneybags minister Lim Guan Eng over his defamation suit against Perkasa, its president Ibrahim Ali and info chief Ruslan Kassim over a 2011 statement implying Lim was endangering national security by exposing the country’s secrets to Singapore. 
     
  • Former minister Rafidah Aziz has criticised the Perikatan government for the “disgusting” removal of “competent women” from top posts in government-linked companies. This past week has seen the departure of several chairwomen from their posts in Bank Rakyat, MARA and the Human Resources Development Fund. Hey, at least we still have the mighty tag team of Rina “YB Dorina” Harun and Siti Zailah “Moral Guardian” Mohd Yusoff in government. Girl power!
     
  • Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, a former rural and regional development deputy minister, has been appointed chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. Ahmad Jazlan replaces Bakke Mohd Salleh, who was one of the few people who spoke out against 1MDB before it erupted into a global scandal. Ahmad Jazlan’s appointment is the latest in a string of political appointments replacing the top people – many of whom were qualified technocrats – in the Pakatan administration.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide has surged way past 1.5 million, with close to 95,000 deaths as of 4am today. In the UK, 765 deaths occurred in a single day, bringing the total there to 7,248. 
     
  • British PM Boris Johnson, who was hospitalised with Covid-19, has been moved out of the ICU
     
  • Italy and Spain, among the worst-hit nations, plan to extend lockdowns till May. While new infections have picked up again in the former, the latter has seen a slight decrease in deaths. 
     
  • After weeks of wrangling, EU finance ministers have agreed on €500 billion worth of support for the economies of member nations which have taken a beating, a move which will take the bloc’s total fiscal support package to a massive €3.2 trillion. 
     
  • India has been on a 21-day lockdown, and one of the most stunning results of the lowered emissions and pollution is that people in the country can see the Himalayas for the first time in decades.

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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