Malaysia signs up for more vaccines – from Russia and China – with two local companies securing supply and distribution rights.

In other news, many private hospitals agree to treat Covid-19 cases, with one caveat – patients'll have to dig into their own purses. Meanwhile, it's all systems go for the silver chariot procession to Batu Caves for Thaipusam, just sans the public.

The more (vaccines), the merrier

The Russians and Chinese are coming

Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 stats have remained high despite us being two weeks into MCO 2.0. Yesterday saw 3,585 new cases and 11 fatalities (to round off the death toll to 700). 

This, despite Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s projection that our sitch should be stabilising, and case numbers going down from today. 

But, there’s also some good news – for the fourth day in a row, recoveries (4,076) outnumbered new cases. There’ve also been recent developments on the vaccine front.

Our Health Ministry (MOH) has secured 18.4 million doses of Russian and Chinese vaccines for the country. Once approved for use here, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s CoronaVac are expected to inoculate some 9.2 million, or 29%, Malaysians.

GLCs Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma Biotech Bhd have gotten the deal to supply the vaccines, with Pharmaniaga to distribute 12 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine, and Duopharma 6.4 million doses of Gamaleya’s Sputnik V. Here’s more info on how Sputnik and CoronaVac work.

In case you’ve lost track, we’ve already secured vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, and are in talks with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for theirs. Meanwhile, MyEG has secured a deal with China’s Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical for its vaccine. (Note, that no agreement’s been struck with the Malaysian gomen just yet). 

Also yesterday, the gomen’s stated it’ll have a “ring vaccination” strategy in place where vaccines are channelled to a particular location or cluster, wherever necessary, similar to that done to fight Ebola and smallpox.

This will run alongside the three phases of the national immunisation plan – frontliners first, then elderly and high-risk groups, and lastly, us plebs aged 18 and above. (BT-Dubs, if you’re still a little duhh about the national vaccination plan, you can refer to this guide.)

The ring plan could also be used on vulnerable high-risk groups like migrant workers and detainees here, says Science and Janggut Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. 

All this sounds a treat, and as Selangor MB Amirudin Shari pointed out, achieving herd immunity’s gonna be tough if migrant workers aren’t vaccinated as well. 

For context, the notorious Teratai cluster involved mostly foreigners employed by Top Glove and now involves over 7,000 cases! We’re also still seeing more workplace clusters, including one involving 543 local and foreign workers of furniture manufacturer Poh Huat

Problem is, will migrants have to pay for their vaccines? Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) have called on the gomen to vaccinate vulnerable non-citizens and detainees F.O.C. Good news is, KJ seemed to agree.

Going private will cost ya

With the healthcare system being stretched as it is – like butter scraped over too much bread – talks are still ongoing between the gomen and private hospitals over Covid patients’ treatment.

DG Noor Hisham has said public and private hospitals will be placed under the Covid-19 Integrated Control Centre to operate in a hybrid manner, to treat both Covid and non-Covid cases, according to instructions from MOH.

Some 96 out of the 129 private hospitals which offer inpatient services have agreed to provide coronavirus treatment. This’d potentially add 1,252 beds in several states, as well as 65 ICU beds and 54 ventilators. 

Only, there’s a snag. As talks between the gomen and insurance companies are still ongoing, those treated in private hospitals will have to fork out their own dough for now. Ouch.

We hope offloading some of the burden to private hospitals would help the chaos at public hospitals struggling to cope. Take, for instance, this case where a man whose mother died from Covid at the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. Not only had her jewellery gone missing (it was later returned), but he was handed the wrong body! 

Anyway, here are some other Covid-related news for ya:

  • PM-forever-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim is seeking leave for a judicial review of the emergency proclamation. Three other opposition reps have also filed an application for the same reason.
     
  • Civil servants have been instructed to adopt a new sign-off on official correspondence: “Prihatin rakyat: Darurat memerangi Covid-19″ (Care for the rakyat: Emergency to fight Covid-19). Could this line, which sounds suspiciously like propaganda, be the work of Jasa/J-Kom?
     
  • Chief Secretary to the Gomen Mohd Zuki Ali is under self-quarantine after coming into close contact of a Covid-positive case. Still, WFH goes on, he said.

MCO 2.0 and Thaipusam

With Thaipusam tomorrow, le gomen has doubled down on the can and cannots for those celebrating during the MCO.

Just a reminder, the chariot carrying Lord Murugan will be allowed to go on its usual procession from Jalan Tun HS Lee to Batu Caves this morning and back again on Jan 29 BUT with only 10 peeps (five temple committee members and five others) joining it.

There’ll also be no big celebrations at temples nationwide with only five temple folks allowed to conduct prayers. So best pray at home folks.

Unfortunately for devotees in Penang, the state’s procession’s still a no-go. State deputy head honcho P. Ramasamy has complained that the Batu Caves approval set a bad precedent and would cause other Hindu boards to demand their chariots take to the roads, too.

Meanwhile, in Kedah, there’s still no let-up in the state’s decision to axe the public holiday tomorrow. In fact, the spat between MIC and Kedah M̶e̶n̶t̶e̶r̶i̶ ̶B̶o̶d̶o̶h̶ MB Sanusi Md Noor over the cancellation continues with MIC Senator S. Vell Paari saying the move was sabotaging PAS’ attempts to present the party as inclusive. 

He also says Sanusi must’ve been living on Mars for claiming MIC had backed Pakatan Harapan in GE14. 

As funny as the back and forth is, the sad reality is this stupid political spat has taken over the conversation when the real focus should’ve been on a state leader’s seeming disregard for the cultural and religious needs of a particular community, AND of our national leader’s (PM dah-ling?) silence over it.

Here are a couple of other MCO-related news that came out yesterday:

  • Good news for married couples living in different states. They can travel inter-state to visit each other from today, provided they first obtain police permission. Booty calls back on, bay-beh!
     
  • Former colourful baju minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has called for calm over rumours that a total lockdown would be ordered after the MCO is scheduled to end on Feb 4, saying that the gomen has to take note of many things, including that this would risk 2.8 million people losing their jobs. 

Return of the hackers

A number of other news items caught our attention yesterday, so here they are:

  • Hacker activist group Anonymous Malaysia has resurfaced, threatening to launch a cyber attack on gomen websites to prove how poor their cyber security is.
     
  • A security expert has warned that the threat shouldn’t be taken lightly, while gomen agencies have been warned to brace for an attackNo attacks have been reported so far.
     
  • The man with two first names, Tommy Thomas, will release a new autobiography in which, among others, he claims then PM7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad had wanted him to resign as AG a day after appointing him, due to the “Malay backlash”.
     
  • Umno No. 2 Mohamad Hasan has urged decency over calls for prez Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to resign, after “rude and insulting” banners were put up in Perak.
     
  • Umno supreme council member Puad Zakarshi has called on the gomen to approve the registration of MUDA, led by former Maddey head cheerleader Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, saying Perikatan Nasional shouldn’t be afraid of the young ‘uns. 

“Vaccines save lives; fear endangers them.”

- Jeffrey Kluger -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The world, according to a CNN tally, has surpassed 100 million Covid-19 cases, with a million of those, BTW, coming from our neighbours Indonesia
     
  • The UK has reported 100,000 Covid deaths while the EU has urged pharmaceutical companies to honour promises to supply vaccines as delivery cuts and delays dim hopes of a quick fix amidst talk of protectionism and hoarding. 
     

  • Farmers have stormed Delhi’s historic Red Fort in a Republic Day protest in India. The latest rally is part of a protest against so-called agricultural reforms that farmers say will cause them to lose income. 
     
  • The US Justice Department is launching a probe to see if any of its former or current officers engaged in “improper attempts” to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. 
     

  • An attempt to scupper former POTUS Donald Trump’s impeachment trial by challenging its constitutionality has failed, with five Senate Republicans voting against it. 
     
  • Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine was freed from house arrest but has accused security forces of humiliating him and his family. Wine had lost to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni in a contentious election on Jan 14. 

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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