Will we see a third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO)? It all depends on how we do in the next week.

In other coronavirus-related news, a PM, a former PM and a man who looks like he will never be PM all made their presence felt; AirAsia appears to be in big trouble financially; and, two senior ministers will head a special committee that will look into how to best balance economic priorities and the need to enforce the MCO. Oh, and we have a new special envoy to the Middle East.

Deadline April 10

MCO: Third time's the charm?

April 10. Mark this date.

Despite there being early signs of improvement, Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it’s still too soon to decide whether to extend the MCO. And so, the government will decide the matter next week.

And whether or not we will all be able to go out for teh tarik or a jog will depend on if we’ve been good boys and girls till then and whether the coronavirus infection curve is really flattened.
 
And while flattening the curve doesn’t mean a zero-infection rate, Noor Hisham added the next two weeks will prove crucial to see how Malaysia fares. This is especially as the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that the country will hit its peak Covid-19 rates in mid-April. WHO warned that despite early signs of said curve flattening, things could bounce back if control measures are lifted.

WHO’s prediction tallies with the Health Ministry’s own trajectory rates, which is why the gomen has been taking extra precautionary measures and intensifying the movement order such as housing all arrivals into the country at quarantine centres from today, extending Phase 1 of the MCO, as well as implementing stricter hours for supermarkets, cabs and e-hailing services.
 
Two crucial factors are the tabligh cluster and Malaysians returning from abroad. Tabligh congregants have gone to mosques and suraus throughout the country, possibly infecting other Muslims. Only 15-20% of returning Malaysians, meanwhile, stuck to the 14-day self-quarantine regulation imposed during MCO Phase 1, forcing all future returnees be placed in government-sanctioned centres. 

As for the numbers: Malaysia yesterday recorded 208 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, with sadly, 5 more deaths, bringing the totals to 3,116 and 50, respectively. Even so, we recorded the biggest number of recoveries for the second day in a row, at 122 (for a total of 767).

Since March 18, more than 4,000 people have been arrested for breaking the MCO. 

Among the nearly 1,500 people who’ve been charged with breaking the MCO were 24 members of the Catholic seminary in Penang caught playing football. They got off with community service sentences after their lawyers pleaded in mitigation that they were under lockdown in the seminary and had no contact with the outside world. It’s a bit worrying that people who will be leading their flocks in the not so distant future showed such poor judgement.

(Sidenote: We just absolutely have to point out that one of the seminarians caught playing football is named Cantona. We kid you not).

BTW, April 10 is also the day Malaysians in the federal territories will know if the government will allow Ramadan bazaars. Yes, that debate is still ongoing, despite several states already cancelling them. The Kedah government was the latest to say there would be no bazaars, while the Sultan of Johor has decreed bazaars ‘can wait”
 
Bear in mind that the more we fail to do our part, the closer we get to a total lockdown (no leaving home at all) and the worse we make it for ourselves. But at least we should be glad we’re not like the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach is to shoot MCO violators. We don’t know if he was joking, but with Duterte you never can tell.  

Long story short, just hunker down and make the best of things while we wait. For this, too, shall pass.

More on coronavirus

What do the current PM, a former PM and a PM-wannabe have in common? They all said something about Covid-19 yesterday, to varying effects.
 
Let’s start with our glorious leader, Muhyiddin Yassin. Moo wants government-linked companies to play a more proactive role in helping people face challenges in the wake of Covid-19. They should be role models, he says, for other corporations and industries by carrying out corporate social responsibility programmes and assisting authorities in drafting a comprehensive economic strategy for both during and after the MCO. 
 
Then we have PM6 Najib Razak, who kinda committed seppuku. Ever since being booted out of office, Jibby has turned into a mega troll, sometimes with great success (hey, credit where credit is due). This time, however, the Jibster screwed himself. Najib tried to troll the Sabah government following news that a quarantine centre there was in a terrible state. But the joke was on him as the centre was actually under the federal government. Nice try, Jibs. Maybe next time. 
 
Lastly, we have no-longer-PM8-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, who, in an FB Live broadcast, recalled his decade behind bars and said how self-discipline was key to surviving the MCO. Sound advice, we say. But we can’t help but think that somehow he made this about him. Are we just too cynical for our own good? 
 
Here are some of the other things from yesterday:

  • AirAsia is in talks with the government for a loan amidst a “tough operating environment” which includes the sharp drop in travel thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, now nobody can fly. AirAsia’s troubles reflect the pain of the global airline industry.
     
  • special committee to develop strategic measures to safeguard Malaysia’s economy and labour market has been established. Chaired by senior ministers Azmin Ali and Ismail Sabri, it aims to strike a balance between economic priorities and the MCO. 
     
  • The gomen is bringing in the experimental drug Remdesivir to be used on Covid-19 patients soon, while Selangor, the hardest-hit state in the country, is turning to analytical platforms utilising big data and machine intelligence to better tackle Covid.
     
  • Bukit Aman will tighten enforcement in areas where the most violations occur. Oh, and you’re advised to carry an electricity bill or water bill to prove your place of residence is within 10km just in case cops stop you. 
     
  • Workers groups are calling for Covid-19 to be declared an occupational disease by law to ensure those who become infected at their workplace are entitled to protection under social security schemes and laws. We agree. 
     
  • Moody’s Investor Service has downgraded Malaysia’s banking system from stable to negative to reflect growing risks from Covid-19. 
     
  • Yesterday was World Autism Day, so spare a thought for autistic kids who are really, really hard hit by the MCO. They find it terribly difficult to adjust to changes in routine and can’t understand why they have to stay indoors and not go to school or play outside. :'(
     
  • NGOs want more clarity on aid distribution guidelines, which they say have raised more questions than answers. 
     
  • Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has called on zakat aid to be extended to non-Muslims as well. Good one. 
     
  • After news that Zoo Negara was in dire need of funds, two wildlife sanctuaries have also come out to appeal for donations. The Gibbon Conservation Society in Pahang and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah both need help to care for the two endangered species. For details on how to help these our furry friends, read this article.
     
  • And finally, we leave you with this epic troll. The Twitter admin for the Health Ministry has taken the mickey out of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. Tweeting a poster of activities to keep children busy during the MCO, it suggested parents keep kids entertained by speaking with a “Doraemon voice”. Sadly, the tweet was later deleted, though not before many people praised the Health Ministry for its sense of humour.

Bits and bobs

Surprisingly, quite a number of non-coronavirus news came out yesterday. Here they are:

  • PAS prez Abdul Hadi Awang has been appointed the PM’s special envoy to the Middle East, with ministerial status. This is significant as it’s equivalent to a Cabinet portfolio. Abdul Hadi, it had been reported, had turned down a ministerial post when PM Muhyiddin took over and this could be a big step for him to build further burnish his and his party’s credentials among the umat. Will historians one day say this was the first step to a PAS federal government?
     
  • Jibby Razak’s 1MDB trial has been postponed again to April 15 coz of Covid-19. And if the MCO is extended, it’ll most likely be postponed again. 
     
  • Former AG Apandi Ali’s RM10 million defamation suit against DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang will likely go to trial as there appears to be no chance it can be settled out of court, Uncle Kit’s lawyer says. 
     
  • The Environment Ministry has been rebranded the Ministry of Environment and Water in line with the government’s decision to place the responsibility of water management and environmental sustainability under it. 
     
  • Here’s a bit of good news to cheer Malaysians up. Our athletes — national skater Anja Chong and professional wrestler Nor “Phoenix” Diana — have been named in Forbes fifth annual “30 Under 30 Asia” list. Congratulations to our two shining stars.

“When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.”

- Sting -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Global statistics for Covid-19 continue to rise sharply, with more than a million people now listed as having contracted the virus. More than 52,000 have succumbed to the deadly pandemic. 
     
  • US President Donald Trump has invoked the Defence Production Act to aid manufacturers to receive materials needed to produce ventilators. The coronavirus has devastated the US economy, with 6.6 million people filing for unemployment benefits over the past week, a massive 3,000% jump since early March.  
     
  • Saudi Arabia has imposed a 24-hour curfew in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. This is in addition to earlier suspensions of pilgrimages, international flights and closures of most public places. 
     
  • A bit of good news, not-so-good news here. China’s leading respiratory disease expert says the coronavirus could be under control by the end of the month but warns there is uncertainty over whether it could return next spring. 
     
  • The Belgian Pro League is set to become the first major European football league to halt its season due to Covid-19, proclaiming Club Brugge the champions. English Premier League clubs will video conference today and are set to push the restart of the league from its April 30 deadline. 
     
  • In other news, the US State Department has condemned a Pakistani court decision to overturn the convictions of four men for the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl, saying it is “an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere”. 

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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