The government may not be considering a full-scale lockdown right now. But the way our Covid-19 numbers are skyrocketing, it might be prudent to consider putting the brakes on things like social events and religious gatherings.

In other news, almost the entire Cabinet is in quarantine mode thanks to a minster testing positive for the coronavirus, Ku Nan scores an RM17 million discount, and the horrible water situation in Selangor shows no signs of getting better.

We're smashing records

Up, up and away

We almost don’t wanna say it considering how this particular record keeps getting smashed, but Monday’s 432 increase in Covid-19 cases means the country’s scored yet another record-breaking day.

 

Yes, folks, we’ve notched a lotta record highs of late. But never ever have we registered more than 400 cases in a single day.

 

As expected, of course, a big bulk of the new infections were registered in Sabah and Kedah. What’s more worrying is with the exception of just Perlis and Penang, every other state notched an increase in cases, with Selangor’s 34 new infections leading the Best of the Rest list.

Also, while no fatalities were reported for a second straight day, the number of patients needing intensive care shot up to 32. For the record, while ICU cases stood at 28 yesterday, we had a mere eight last Monday!

 

The government, you’ll remember, has been pretty clear about there being no need for nationwide lockdown despite the severe uptick in infections. Be that as it may, let’s put some of the recent numbers in context for you to have a look at:

  1. In the week immediately prior to the Movement Control Order (MCO) being implemented on March 18, 2020, Malaysia recorded just three days of daily infections in the 100s. In contrast, over the last seven days, the country’s registered only one day with a two-digit tally (89 cases on Sept 30) and six days with figures in excess of a hundred.
     
  2. The recent spike translates to 1,779 new infections over the past week. In the week leading up to the MCO, meanwhile, the cumulative weekly total was just 544, a third of the last seven days’ total.
     
  3. In terms of deaths, there were two in the week before we went into lockdown. In contrast, we’ve had three in the last week. With the rising number of cases in intensive care, there’s, of course, the concern the number of fatalities may shoot up.
     
  4. But here’s the most important bit – the caseload over the past seven days has contributed to 13.9 percent of the total number of infections Malaysia has recorded!

So, are we advocating a re-imposition of the MCO? Well, no. As we noted yesterday, introducing nationwide curbs at this point will almost certainly plunge the country further down the economic shithole.

Having said that, what the government certainly needs to consider right now is whether it’s time to put the brakes on things like inter-state travel (across the entire country and not just Sabah), social and MICE events and religious gatherings as well as be stricter about restaurant dine-in SOPs and mall operating hours.

 

After all, we know how Malaysians like shopping and eating out, with the rise in coronavirus cases not seeming to diminish those habits, for the time being anyway. In a series of tweets on Monday, the folks in charge of the government’s contact tracing app MySejahtera noted there hasn’t been a noticeable spread of infections at the country’s malls and eateries due to infected persons having visited these places. Even so, two Petaling Jaya malls – 1 Utama Shopping Centre and Paradigm Mall – have confirmed cases of staff testing positive.

These new incidents come just weeks after six other malls were thrust into a similar spotlight. Thankfully, all the malls were quick to notify the public and take appropriate action, including carrying out sanitising works.

 

Incidentally, the spike in Covid cases isn’t confined to Malaysia. In fact, a worldwide upsurge in infections that’s hit even places that were previously immune indicates the increase we’re experiencing is part of a global trend. All the same, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that a big part of the blame should go to the folks in Putrajaya.

 

Take a look at the mess surrounding those returning to various parts of the country after voting and campaigning in the recently-concluded Sabah polls, for example. 

 

The Health Ministry has maintained that while a two-week quarantine period is mandatory for those experiencing respiratory tract infection symptoms, folks testing negative after a swab test are free to get their pink home surveillance order (HSO) tags cut and go their merry ways. Problem is, we’re seeing now that a number of people who tested negative upon returning from Sabah – like Selangor state assemblypersons Lim Yi Wei and Kota Damansara rep Shatiri Mansor – have later been found to be positive. 

 

In Yi Wei’s case, for example, the DAP state rep says that three days after returning from Sabah, she was told by the PJ Health District office that she could have her HSO bracelet snipped ’cos she’d tested negative. Fortunately, though, she decided against it on account of experiencing coronavirus symptoms. And wouldn’t you know it, a second swab test did, in fact, confirm her to be positive! 

 

Now, the million-dollar question is, of course, how many other infected persons who tested negative upon returning from Sabah are out there right now passing on the disease? Hence the need for those returning from Covid hotspots such as Sabah (or Kedah it may now seem) to self-isolate for two-weeks no matter was the initial tests may say. Fourteen days, if you remember, is the incubation period for the virus.

 

Speaking of Sabah, by the way, the cases have shot up so much there in recent days that not only is a total lockdown of seven districts now in effect, the state government has also closed 122 schools and is looking to impose other super strict MCO-like measures

Cabinet on lockdown

Despite a nationwide lockdown being off the cards for now, Most of Putrajaya has already gone into quarantine mode thanks to de facto Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri testing positive for Covid-19.

 

Now, Zul has already been separated from his ministerial colleagues, admitted to the hospital, and appears to be doing well at the moment. Unfortunately, there’s a very real possibility that before he was discovered to be positive, the dude spread the disease to a whole bunch of folks.

This uncle reportedly returned from Sabah on Sept 24. Since then, instead of self-isolating for two weeks as advised by the health authorities (of course, being forced to and advised to are two different things), our friend practically went on a tour of the peninsula, attending official functions in Kelantan, Terengganu, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.

 

He was also present at that special National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Saturday chaired by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and attended by key members of the administration. These included Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Education Minister Radzi Jidin, Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador, Armed Forces chief Affendi Buang, and even Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

 

A number of those in attendance at Saturday’s meeting have since confirmed that they’ll be working from home, including PM Moo, for the next 14 days to hopefully contain any potential spread of the disease. Moo especially noted he’d be relying on video conferencing for important matters. About bloody time! 

Why the hell couldn’t this have been done before the shit hit the fan. The NSC meeting was called in light of the country’s worsening Covid situation (although we’re still waiting to see what good it did). Still, are the teh tarik and kuih at Putrajaya so damn good that all you fellas, including those who’d just returned from Sabah, had to be physically present for that meeting? 

After all, which genius would decide it was the best strategy to place key government figures, including a premier who is a cancer survivor, top ministers, our police and armed forces chiefs and the man currently overseeing our medical response to the pandemic, in one closed, air-conditioned room for hours.

 

Come on lah. There’re missteps and then there’s just plain stupidity.

 

By the way, folks, in case you’re wondering how Zulkifli contracted the coronavirus, the truth is it’s hard to say for certain. However, social media posts indicate that while in Sabah, or even during that oh-so-important-we-must-all-meet-in-person meeting with the PM, the minister wasn’t always wearing a mask.

 

Remember what Air Suam Minister Adham Baba said on Sunday about the rakyat’s complacency having contributed to Malaysia’s surge in Covid cases? Well, guess what Doc, we had not one goddamn thing to do with this bit of idiocy.

 

So what happens now? Tai-chi the blame again? Probe the rakyat for criticising politicians? Or will you guys finally realise that we cannot and must not have two sets of rules?

 

Incidentally, while the Cabinet’s been seriously decimated thanks to Zul, several Putrajaya ministers seemed to have escaped the so-called #KlusterMenteri, including Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who returns to work in Wisma Putra today. H2O, if you recall, was cloistered at home thanks to having earlier been in contact with Sufian Abdul Karim, Barisan Nasional’s Pitas candidate who was confirmed positive just before polling day in Sabah.

VVIP discount?... and other odds and ends

RM17 million is a lotta moolah for a lotta people. However, according to court documents involving former Federal Territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), in some cases, such a sum is totally waivable.

 

The IRB, in case you didn’t already know, had in July last year sued Ku Nan for RM57.17 million in unpaid taxes for the assessment years 2012 to 2017. Thing is, it seems now that while the former minister has agreed to settle the claim, a draft consent order reveals he’s been granted a discount of RM17 million

 

Now, it’s true that settlements sometimes result in reductions to original monetary claims. But even so, RM17 million is a pretty sizeable discount, no? This is the man who claimed RM2 million was mere pocket change after all. 

He said this when previously charged with receiving an RM2 mil bribe from a property developer in 2016, which the accused claimed was a political donation to Umno. Coincidentally, during his trial for the latter case, he claimed Umno owed him RM17 million.

 

Anyway, back to his IRB case, whether he pays the discounted sum of RM40.3 million or the original fee of RM57 million, what we’d really like to know is: if Ku Nan owes this much in unpaid taxes for five years, how much did he actually take home?!?! (He previously said he was worth close to RM1 billion)
 

Meanwhile, in another legal matter involving money, money, money, Malaysia’s former spy chief Hasanah Ab Hamid has objected to an application for her criminal breach of trust (CBT) trial to be held behind closed doors. 

 

In its original application, prosecutors had expressed concern that since the case involved national security issues, a closed-door hearing (in-camera in legalese) should be preferred. Lawyers for Hasanah, the former chief of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO), however, claimed such a move would be prejudicial to their client.

 

Honestly, while we’re not exactly certain which party has more of a case here, we sure would like to hear the juicy deets about how and why Malaysia’s top spy swiped (allegedly! allegedly!) RM50.4 million in cash from the Malaysian government.

 

Still on the subject of illicit funds, Monday had originally been set for two big matters involving former PM Najib Razak and wifey dearest Rosmah Mansor to be heard in the High Courts. Unfortunately, both trials didn’t get to proceed as planned either ’cos a witness was unavailable due to Covid-19 (former minister Mahdzir Khalid in Rosie’s school solar project case) or because the accused himself (Jibby in his 1MDB trial) decided to be a good boy and home quarantine after returning from Sabah.

 

Yesterday’s court cases aside, here’re a few other Covid and non-Covid things that made the news:

  • This sucks but it seems that while the water quality at the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant is improving, readings at the Bukit Tampoi plant have remained poor. This means that the 300,000-odd households in the Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts affected by the latest water cuts have to wait a while yet for proper supply to resume.
     
  • In Port Dickson, meanwhile, diesel, which is believed to have leaked from decommissioned underground pipes, is seeping into monsoon drains. Bomba and Environment Department personnel have been on hand to handle the situation, though PD MP Anwar Ibrahim, who still appears way too concerned with his numbers, was nowhere to be seen.  
     
  • Days after claiming he’ll sit out the next general election, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said he isn’t totally ruling out contesting in the next polls.

    For the record, while many people are predicting a snap GE around the corner (unwise considering the current Covid climate), PM Moo could well wait until the current Parliament’s term ends in 2023, when Maddey is 98, to call an election. In any case, we don’t care! What with being in the middle of a freaking health crisis and all.
     
  • The DAP is looking to postpone its annual congress by six months given the rise in Covid cases. Approval for a postponement will, however, need to be okayed by the Registrar of Societies which has, so far, only greenlit an extension until the end of the year.

“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time."

- Terry Pratchett, Hogfather -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • United States President Donald Trump has continued to downplay the seriousness of Covid-19, returning to the White House four days after contracting the disease.

    His return does nothing to stop folks in his administration from getting hit left, right and centre by the coronavirus. Among the latest to test positive is Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, as well as two of her aides.
     
  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been handed to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the trio’s discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. The three scientists made the discovery in stages over an extended period of time dating back to the 1970s.
     
  • According to a new study, 14 metric tonnes of plastic could be sitting at the bottom of the world’s oceans. That’s 30 times more plastic than there is floating on the surface!
     
  • This is brilliant! LGBT activists have hijacked the hashtag #ProudBoys on Twitter and used it in posts of gay pride and love. The move is in retaliation to The Donald refusing to condemn such white supremacist groups during the presidential debate.
     
  • Geneva is set to introduce the world’s highest minimum wage of US$25 (RM104) an hour. We dunno about you, but we’re seriously considering moving to Switzerland.

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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