‘Lockdown’ for 3,500 in Kluang
What rough beast slouches towards Kluang?
If you think you’re suffering during the MCO, spare a thought for the people of Kluang.
Effective midnight today, the residents of Kampung Dato’ Ibrahim Majid and Bandar Baharu Dato’ Ibrahim Majid were put on “enhanced MCO” for two weeks, ending April 9. What this means is that they are not allowed to leave their homes at all, and non-residents will not be allowed to enter the areas. This will affect 650 families comprising 3,570 people.
The order comes after 83 people in Kluang tested positive for Covid-19, with 61 coming from these two areas alone. Health officers will be going door-to-door there to test residents in search of Covid-19 cases. The move, says senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus out of the two areas.
Considering they are in lockdown in their homes, and non-residents are not allowed into the areas, there is no word as to how these residents will be able to get any essentials, including food.
While the lockdown seems necessary, we wonder how the logistics of the situation is going to pan out. How are essentials going to be delivered; what happens in case of emergencies such as illness, crime or accidents; etc. Grim as it may be to think this, these two housing areas are a test case for how we’d deal with a lockdown if things get worse in nationwide.
The move follows news that the number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have spiked considerably. Malaysia had its highest number of new cases in a single day yesterday at 235, bringing the total number to 2,031. Four people died yesterday, bringing the total fatality rate to 23. Of the new cases, 60 were linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster, while the source of infections for the remaining cases are still under investigation.
Such investigations are difficult to do. Take the Sri Petaling cluster, for example. The infection was believed to have spread to five “generations” of people. Participants of the tabligh who were infected would spread the infection to family members and this would be the first “generation”. These would then infect their neighbours, a second “generation”, who in turn would infect their friends, and so on.
The spike in numbers is expected to see the National Security Council (NSC) issue stricter guidelines for the MCO tomorrow. These could mean more restrictions on going out to purchase essentials, buying food and other issues as the nation’s bid to break the spread of Covid-19 grows more desperate.
The Health Ministry, meanwhile, has identified 13 Covid-19 “hotspots”. Eleven are in the peninsula, and one each are in Sabah and Sarawak. It is also looking into new medicines and treatment methods, such as infusing plasma from recovered patients into those with Covid-19. The new medicines and treatment methods were said to have been used in China effectively.
And speaking of China, medical supplies donated by the Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations have arrived here. These comprise face masks, testing kits, protective suits and face shields.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 retired healthcare professionals have come back and have begun assisting frontliners in the fight against Covid-19. This comes even as the World Health Organization (WHO) praised Malaysia for its preparedness in handling the pandemic.
All this will mean jack, however, if people don’t adhere to the MCO currently in place. So peeps, at the risk of sounding like Moo himself, STAY HOME so you don’t catch Covid-19 and/or don’t pass it on to someone. If you need any more convincing, perhaps you can read the online diary of a Covid-19 survivor and the experience of a student who tested positive after returning from the UK.
No stimulation simulation please
As he mentioned two days ago when speaking about the MCO extension, PM Muhyiddin will announce a new, “more comprehensive” economic stimulus package which will see “no one left behind” today.
It’s anyone’s guess what this new package will entail, other than the fact that it’s likely to be larger than the RM20 billion package the Mahathir-led administration (or was it the Mahathir solo administration) had unveiled previously.
But what will that amount be? Let’s take a look at the state of the world in which Muhyiddin and friends (and us plebes for that matter) find themselves.
With a third of humanity in some sort of lockdown thanks to Covid-19, G20 leaders will inject US$5 trillion into the global economy in a bid to blunt the impact of the coronavirus.
Individually here’s what some countries are doing. The UK has announced the unprecedented move of paying 80% of workers’ salaries, while the US Senate has approved a US$2.2 trillion package. Singapore has unveiled a huge and unprecedented stimulus package of US$33 billion, dipping into its US$1 trillion cash reserves for only the second time in its history. Here’s a list of some of the other stimulus packages unveiled around the world, in case you’re interested.
Back home, as we highlighted yesterday, Pakatan leaders have called for a RM150 billion package, roughly 10% of the nation’s GDP – a quantum they say is equivalent in percentage to what most countries in the world are unveiling.
But the question is, how much can our cash-strapped gomen do, even with the PM, ministers and deputy ministers pledging two months’ worth of their salaries to our Covid-19 fund, and more lawmakers in Pahang also vowing to cut their salaries?
There are many things Moo and Co. will have to consider. The pandemic will affect jobs, industries and the market, and the longer we stay on MCO, the more these will be affected. Malaysian markets have lost much, the KLCI dipping to new lows over the past few weeks. A two-day rally ended yesterday with Bursa Malaysia slipping into the red once again.
A think tank had recently estimated that as many as 2.4 million Malaysians may lose their jobs over the pandemic and MCO. However, experts’ opinions are split as to whether the estimate is accurate.
With analysts and the Health Ministry predicting a possible surge in Covid-19 cases here which will peak only in the middle of next month, other analysts are now foreseeing that Malaysia will be heading for a recession. That said, Malaysia isn’t alone in this – the IMF has predicted a Covid-induced global recession this year.
Then there is the current slump in fuel prices. Malaysia, as an oil-producing country, stands to lose much here. The dip in prices, coupled with the effects of the MCO, is enough to make dealers worry that many petrol stations will be forced to close shop. More importantly – Petronas will be hard hit. And when the national oil company gets screwed, we all do. Why? Because this one company – the most successful in the country in terms of revenues and profits – is said to contribute to almost a third of our GDP and also serves as the government’s private piggybank for when it needs money.
The food supply chain has also been affected by the outbreak and the resulting restrictions of the MCO. Two days ago, we learned that Cameron Highlands farmers had resorted to dumping their produce rather than having to go through delivery problems and restrictions on market operations. Yesterday we found out that, thankfully, they are now donating these items to the poor and the elderly in Ipoh. But fishermen are also now dumping their catches.
Meanwhile, the MCO and unclear instructions coming out of the International Trade and Industry Ministry, meanwhile, has led to concerns that Malaysia may lose its international standing in the global supply chain.
So, our glorious leader and his underlings have their work cut out for them. They have to balance the country’s debt, which according to Saudara Lim Guan Eng when he was Moneybags Minister, was more than RM1 trillion, with the needs of the people, all the while keeping in mind that if the people lose their jobs, the country suffers as well.
They will also have to come back with a good stimulus package that is all-encompassing and well thought-out and not just half-baked measures or they could face the wrath of the people both now and in the next general election.
Other things Covid-19
Here are some other coronavirus-related news for Malaysia that came out yesterday.
- The King and Queen have been quarantined after seven Istana Negara staff tested positive for Covid-19.
- A 2-year-old boy undergoing treatment for leukaemia is Malaysia’s youngest Covid-19 patient. What’s even worse is that the boy’s chemotherapy sessions will have to be postponed. Heartbreaking.
- There were more pledges for the fight against Covid-19 as the Association of Banks channeled RM10 million to Mercy Malaysia for Covid-19 related aid; the private sector in Penang pledged RM2 million to the state’s fund; and, the Terengganu government announced an additional RM9.6 million in funds for residents.
- The Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry has announced a six-month moratorium on loan repayments.
- The Health Ministry is now denying there’s an acute shortage of blood, saying there is no big demand since elective surgeries have all been postponed. However, it still welcomes anyone wishing to donate blood.
- 81 Malaysians and their family members have been brought back from Italy and 225 from Bangladesh. All have been tested and put on 14-day quarantine. However, there are still 2,982 Malaysians stranded in 55 countries due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
- Bank Negara has warned Malaysians to beware of scams following the announcement on the six-month moratorium on loan repayments, saying it has not appointed any intermediary to process applications.
- Speaking of scams, a trader has been arrested for trying to sell face masks at RM3.50 a piece, well above the set price. The authorities confiscated 223,000 masks from him. 393 cases of fraud involving face masks have been reported to police nationwide, with losses amounting to an astonishing RM1.1 million.
- While you’re looking after yourself and your family during the MCO, don’t forget your pets ya. You have to provide proper lodging, healthcare and diet for the little furkids, or you can be charged under the Animal Welfare Act and can be fined up to RM75,000, jailed up to two years, or both.
- In probably the weirdest news of the day, a man was seen venturing out to his local supermarket in Kuala Terengganu wearing garbage bags, ski mask and goggles, and rubber boots. Zamakhyari Khairiri got some pretty strange looks, but the 41-year-old father of three just didn’t give a damn.
"Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
- Marie Curie -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The US now has overtaken China to record 82,404 Covid-19 infections – the highest number in the world. 40% of America’s 330 million population are under lockdown orders to curb the spread of Covid-19. A tally by Johns Hopkins University has put the total number of Covid-19 infections at more than 500,000 globally, with a death toll exceeding 22,000, of which more than 8,000 have been in Italy alone.
- Meanwhile, a study has revealed that the US could suffer 2,300 deaths a day, even with social distancing, if precautionary measures are relaxed. And check this out: Mexicans are demanding an end to Americans crossing the border into their country. Talk about changing times, eh?
- Could Covid-19 have spread beyond China earlier than anybody thought? That’s what Italian scientists are trying to discover as they investigate the abnormally high cases of the flu recorded in Lombardy late last year.
- Separatist rebels in Cameroon have declared a ceasefire due to Covid-19. Who’d have thought that the key to world peace was a horrifying pandemic and not the wishes of a thousand beauty queens?
- This warms the heart. In Israel, paramedics working on the Covid-19 crisis paused to pray together. No big deal? Well, yes big deal considering one was Jewish and one was Muslim. Lovely story and a reminder of our common humanity.