Mother forking shirtballs! Malaysia's now overtaken mainland China, the supposed birthplace of Covid-19, in terms of total number of infections.

In other news, our top doc releases more details on the Covid vaccination programme. Also, we're coming in for some tax breaks after a bill is passed in the Dewan Rakyat, and some peeps are telling us not to count out Anwar Ibrahim despite his royal budget fork-up.

Speaking of Budget 2021, do you think it's unfair some ethnic groups are getting a larger slice of the pie than others? In case you missed it, BTL's special report last Saturday looks into the disparity and what we should do about it.

Overtaking China

It's all in the numbers

Despite a slight drop in new cases, Malaysia’s reached a new unwelcomed Covid milestone yesterday.

The 1,295 new recorded cases bring our cumulative case count to 87,913. That’s more than mainland China, where the virus first emerged and which was once the epicentre of the viral outbreak. Mainland China has reported 86,770 infections so far. 

Yesterday also sees Malaysia’s active case count increase to a record 14,751, and the death count to 429 (with 7 new deaths). Eight new clusters were reported, while the existing Teratai cluster in Klang involving mostly Top Glove employees had the highest number yesterday at 143. 

Klang’s really had a rough few weeks. It’s seen such an increase in cases that some people who’ve tested positive have had to wait for days – one even up to nine days! – before ambulances arrived to transport them to hospital. Authorities, however, have claimed this was due to a lack of data coordination between private labs and the Health Ministry. 

Apart from Teratai, there are several other active clusters in the area. Another glove maker, Kossan, has reported 427 cases so far among employees of its Meru factory. FYI, there are now four public-listed glove companies affected by the virus – Top Glove, Kossan, Hartalega and Careplus.

Medical gloves are a much-needed resource, especially during the current global health crisis, so naturally, many reports have highlighted how these companies have had to cut back capacity (and 💸💸💸) due to the Covid hit.

We’re trying to be sympathetic here (key word, trying), but we can’t help but feel more focus should be on how tighter handling of proper SOPs and better housing and care for our migrant workers could’ve prevented all this in the first place.

It’s all about the money vaccine

Numbers aside, the thing about Covid on everybody’s mind is the vaccine, or rather, vaccines.

All eyes are currently on the UK, which has begun vaccinating its citizens with the American and German-made Pfizer/BioNTech goods. The same vaccine’s been authorised for use by several other countries, including the US and Singapore. Jangan lupa, we’ve signed up to get some next year too!

FYI, Pfizer/BioNTech isn’t the only fish in the sea. Several vaccines are in the works and could soon see use as well, including Moderna’s mRNA-1273, CoronaVac by China company Sinovac, and India’s Covaxin. Russia, too, has begun using its own Sputnik V vaccine.

If you think this means most everybody’s on track to getting inoculated against that blasted coronavirus ASAP, hah! A recent study’s revealed at least a fifth of the world’s population won’t have access to vaccines until 2022 as wealthier nations have reserved more than half of next year’s potential doses. 

Worse, the World Health Organization’s Covax programme (we’ve signed on for this too!), meant to deliver vaccines to poorer nations, could be a big failure, leaving billions without doses until as late as 2024. Apparently, the programme’s struggling from lack of funds, supply risks, and complex contractual arrangements. 

So where does Malaysia stand in all this? Not too bad despite the Covax hiccup. Still, the Covax and Pfizer deals have only secured enough vaccine for 30% of us. 

Not to fear, PM Muhyiddin Yassin and co are trying to purchase more to cover at least 70% of Malaysian to create better herd immunity. This includes several deals with China (including this slightly odd one involving MyEG). 

And what happens once the vaccines do arrive? Everyone’s favourite Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has revealed some details on our national Covid vaccination plan, at least for the earlier stages.

Here’s what we know:

  • The gomen will not make it compulsory for people to vaccinate (why not, though?); 
  • The government will incorporate vaccination registry and appointment system in the MySejahtera app;
  • Priority will be given for frontliners and high-risk groups before the rest of the adult population; and
  • Following this, the public can make appointments through selected gomen/private hospitals and clinics (The question is, how will these private clinics be chosen?). 

Meanwhile, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy “Tok Janggut” Jamaluddin has said vaccines must be made available to all. He was speaking on a global scale but he sure as hell better have been speaking about Malaysia. 

As it is, everybody’s clamouring to be first in line for a shot. This includes the National Union of the Teaching Profession, which has called on teachers to be vaccinated first after frontliners. 

Not the end of the world for DSAI

Yesterday, the Dewan Rakyat passed the Finance Bill 2020 that provides several tax breaks to cushion the impact of Covid, as provided for under Budget 2021. If you remember, the gomen money plan was passed in Parliament amidst so much drama on Tuesday. 

If you’re blur sotongs like us, the tl;dr is the Finance bill seeks to amend several existing laws such as the Income Tax Act to provide higher tax deductions for those undertaking reskilling courses, and for the purchase of smartphones and computers as well as for Covid vaccines.

It’s yet another blow to Anwar “not so formidable” Ibrahim, proving once more that PM Moo has the majority, at least for now. But, though Anwar may be under pressure, it’s likely not the end of the PKR bigwig’s PM fantasy dream for him.

Selangor MB Amirudin Shari has implored Pakatan Harapan supporters not to give up on Anwar and Reformasi (how about we take the Reformasi but lose Anwar?). And, more importantly, analysts now have said the passing of the budget (and, we guess the Finance Bill) is not the same as a confidence vote against MooMoo. They said there’s still the possibility MPs may vote differently if a no-confidence vote is brought to the floor.

We wouldn’t be surprised at all, now would we? Barisan Nasional, in particular Umno, are likely to be chomping at the bits to see if they can wrest back control of Putrajaya. Former inglorious basterd leader Najib Razak, in fact, has warned that BN can “still do something” if the Perikatan Nasional gomen disappoints. 

This, despite all the posturing within Umno about how veteran politico Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had “disrespected Umno discipline” by choosing not to support the budget. Still, with today being the last day of the current Parliament session, we’re not counting on any vote of confidence/no-confidence to see the light of day. 

In other political news, localised emergencies have been declared in the Perak parliamentary constituency of Gerik and the Sabah state constituency of Bugaya to avoid by-elections being held in the two places during the pandemic, much like what was done in Batu Sapi.

Odds and ends

Here are several stories that didn’t quite make it to our main segments:

  • New Perak MB Saarani Mohamad was unanimously accepted by all state assemblypersons in a vote of confidence. Later, DAP’s Nga Kor Ming had said the opposition accepted the Umno man after he’d agreed to a slew of reforms in the state. 
     
  • Former dictator-for-life PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad has claimed the rule of law’s no longer being applied after three unnamed high profile corruption cases were dropped by prosecutors in recent months. Yeah, the cos rule of law was followed during your two-decade leadership as PM4, right? 
     
  • Here’s more evidence women really have to put up with shit in Malaysia. A Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) survey has found that some 69% of stalking victims don’t lodge police reports cos they feel police won’t believe or help them. 

    Meanwhile, women rarely report sexual assaults committed by high-profile individuals because of the “power” these people hold. However, the survey also found that men get it bad, too.
     
  • Moey Yok Ham, the football coach who transformed the Penang team of the 1990s into champions, has passed away, aged 76. 

“Strange times for cats. First the dogs kept inside, now the humans. Must feel like they've won.”

- James Felton -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The WHO team investigating the origins of Covid-19 are expected to travel to China in the first week of January where they’ll sift through samples and medical data to help determine where the bug first jumped from animals to humans and which species it came from. 
     
  • Germany saw a record number of Covid deaths (952) on Wednesday, the first day of a new partial lockdown to try and cope with a surge in infections. Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan are bracing for increased numbers during the winter. 
     
  • A French court has found guilty 14 accomplices of the militants behind the January 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Three of the accused were tried in absentia.
     
  • Ten US states, led by Texas, have filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing it of breaking antitrust law in how it runs its online advertising business. 
     
  • China’s Chang’e 5 lunar probe has completed its 23-day mission, landing in the Siziwang Banner of the Inner Mongolia region with the first moon samples collected in 44 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.

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

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