We talk vaccine efficacy and border reopenings following a case of vaccinated travellers in Sarawak testing positive for Covid-19.

Elsewhere, the gomen moots allowing blood donors to cut the vaccine queue; our Covid numbers rise again; plus Pakatan Harapan shows scandal-hit Anwar Ibrahim some PM love and announces a "big tent" approach in politics. Wait, a big what?

Safe but not sound

Have vaccine will travel... right?

Despite the push for borders to reopen and vaccine “passports” to be introduced, a case of inoculated travellers from China testing positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine in Sarawak suggests a rethink on how they’ll be done.


The travellers reportedly received two doses of a particular vaccine. Which vaccine they got, is what we don’t know. China administers four vacs — two by Sinopharm and one each by Sinovac and CanSinoBIO (a single-dose vaccine) to citizens. Yet, these travellers were still highly infectious upon arrival. Why?


For the record, it takes a while — weeks — for certain vaccines to take full effect. It may just be that these folks’ jabs hadn’t kicked in yet. That’s why experts have said there should be no letting up on Covid safety SOPs like social distancing, mask-wearing, and proper hygiene practices.


It’s also possible they contracted Covid despite getting inoculated. After all, vaccines have different efficacy rates, with none 100% effective 100% of the time


The emergence of new virus strains have also complicated matter. E.g., the South African variant, B.1.351, can “break through” some vaccines.  


At present, the biggest vaccine makers are busy tweaking and testing new updates to their treatments to ensure they’re able to deal with all the latest mutations. It’s also why Malaysia invested in sequencing Covid samples to look for potentially problematic mutations, to “understand the enemy”.


Vaccines Imperator Khairy Jamaluddin has said Malaysia might need to develop more detailed requirements (e.g. more stringent criteria for folks coming from areas with a prevalence of highly transmittable variants) before fully opening borders and making travel deals with other countries.


The news of the travellers in Sarawak comes as a top Chinese health expert said China’s considering mixing vaccines to boost effectiveness. It’s also looking at adjusting the dosage or adding extra jabs, like done by the UAE last month. Several recipients of the Sinopharm vaccine were offered a third dose.


So why vaccinate at all then? Cos it’s still necessary to curb community transmission and create herd immunity (FYI, if you’re concerned about long-term side effects of getting vaccinated, this article should help.) Plus, the faster the world vaccinates, the less chance the virus has to mutate and create new strains. 


Also cos, in the words of Minister KJ, “50% efficacy is better than none”. 

Blood runs thicker

A month after announcing that Haj pilgrims could be allowed to jump vaccine queue, the Health Ministry now says it’s considering letting blood donors do the same in Phase 2 of the national immunisation plan.


Warm Water Minister Dr Adham Baba has said the proposal is limited to those who’ve made over 50 donations. The question is, how many people are in this group? But more importantly, why is such a move necessary right now?


FYI, there’re loads of perks — e.g. free Hepatitis B vaccinations and hospitalisation (our parents claim donors received free stout back in the day too, but we can only remember getting Guinness Malta!) — are offered to blood donors to ensure sufficient supply at our blood banks. 


Yet with all teachers yet to be jabbed despite the worrying emergence of school clusters, and all dentists, too, should we be considering stuff like this now?


Perhaps the move is part of gomen efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy? Maybe. However well-intentioned, lack of clarity by the powers that be would only sow confusion and dissatisfaction.


Incidentally, in case this has you motivated to donate blood, do go slow and steady there. The general rule is 12-16 weeks between whole blood donations.


In other Covid developments from the weekend, meanwhile:

  • Our numbers seem to be rising again. On the surface, the nationwide stats — 5,103 infections and 21 deaths between Friday and Sunday — don’t appear all that worrying. However, significant upticks have been notched in Sarawak, Sabah, Kelantan and even Selangor. Our active cases have once more exceeded 15,000 cases (at 15,574).

    Also, the nationwide infectivity rate has gone up too. On Saturday, the R0 rate was 1.06. That’s a big jump from a month ago, on March 3, when it was just 0.81.
  • Despite this, the gomen wants the Health Ministry to make an early decision/announcement on whether or not to allow interstate travel in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Chill first lah, guys.
  • On the subject of Raya, Kelantan has axed all Ramadan bazaars in the state due to a surge of Covid cases that’s resulted in its hospitals filling up.
  • Granting leave for employees to get vaccinated is a good idea. But the gomen has said it can neither compel employers to do so nor declare a special holiday.

Our house is a very, very, very big house

Even as more people weigh in on the Anwar Ibrahim-Ahmad Zahid Hamidi alleged “phone call” (more on that below), Pakatan Harapan has endorsed Abang Nuar as its PM candidate for the next GE.


And like Warisan before it, the coalition’s added that it, too, is open to working with any party for the sake of the rakyat, as long as the other parties are committed to reform, of course.


Anwar being named PM pick is, of course, expected given he’s the pact’s head honcho now that PM 4/7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Warisan’s Shafie Apdal are no longer in the picture. Plus, ditching Anwar after phone-gate would leave them without a hope (geddit?) of another candidate to agree on.

Speaking of Talipon-gate, did you catch our Saturday commentary (with cheeky graphic by Fahmi Reza)? You can check the article out here.


By announcing it’s open to tie-ups, the coalition’s effectively left the door open not just to frenemies like Maddey’s Pejuang, Warisan (which officially cut ties with PH last week) and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s Muda, but Umno too.


Umno, you’ll recall, has already maintained that it’s heading into GE15 with its Barisan Nasional chums only. However, boss Zahid’s noted that post-election hookups are possible.


Now, PH says it’s being similarly free and easy with alliances and adopting a “big tent” policy. One stipulation, however — no kleptocrats. In case you’re wondering, big tent or catch-all approach means encompassing various ideologies/views/interests.


Does that mean the pact’s shutting out ex-PM Najib Razak, Zahid and other Umno politicians facing graft charges? It ain’t clear. But it does seem that political actors from all sides are adopting a wait and see attitude before making decisions on alliances pre and post-GE15.

The long and short of it is that this incarnation of Pakatan is all but unrecognisable from the highly principled party that contested GE14. Good luck in deciding which side represents the lesser evil come GE15.


While you consider what impact wheeling and dealings politicos could have on your vote, here’re some other bits of political news:

  • As Umno peeps continue to call on their president to come clean about that much-talked-about phone call, one leader — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a.k.a Ku Li — has said there’s an ongoing effort to oust Zahid as party boss.
  • Meanwhile, Anwar’s ex-protégé-turned-nemesis Azmin Ali is not only cocksure his former mentor’s one of the voices in the leaked audio clip, but is also convinced Anwar’s betrayed PH. Hello, Black Sheraton Pot. Meet Black Kettle.
  • Elsewhere, PAS and Umno’s relationship appears to have soured further thanks to that leaked recording. There’s also confusion about whether GE seat talks between the two former member ketat have stalled.
  • Away from GE deals and talks, some other fellas appear to be considering their next moves. Ex-education minister Maszlee Malik and Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali are among these.
  • Meanwhile, Negeri Sembilan DAP has decided it’ll be defending its current seats.

This and that

And here’re a few other dangling odds and ends you should know about heading into Monday:

  • RM221.86 million worth of Captagon pills, a.k.a. Jihad drugs, have been seized from a ship in Port Klang. Islamic State militants reportedly use the drugs to give them courage.

    This comes after that record haul Captagon pills some weeks ago. Damn!
  • Deputy Minister Works Minister Eddin Syazlee Shith became a viral sensation when caught on vid falling asleep at a recent event. Eddin’s since apologised for the incident, explaining he was exhausted and unwell. Wait! Why the heck was he out and about if he was sick?
  • The emergency declaration and suspension of Parliament was all for our good, so sayeth Azmin Ali. Yeah, sure they were, bro.
  • Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has come under fire for interfering in the transfer of senior police officers (allegedly! allegedly!), as the act of postponing the transfer is supposedly beyond his jurisdiction.
  • The Welfare Department is being restructured to ensure better delivery of aid and services.
  • In contrast to what it revealed just days earlier, investment company Koperasi Amanah Pelaburan Bhd (KAPB) now said it hadn’t acquired a 51% stake in Exchange 106 Tower at the Tun Razak Exchange after all.

    Questions were raised about the acquisition when it was announced as the stake was previously known to belong to the Finance Ministry. The Ministry’s now said it’s still in control of the stake. 
  • Sitpah Selvaratnam, one of the main lawyers involved in seizing the Equanimity, the superyacht previously owned by playboy-turned-fugitive Jho Low, is self-publishing a tell-all. Better yet, she’s giving all the proceeds to charity. The book’s available directly from the author.
  • The Housing Development Act will be improved to help buyers of abandoned projects. Of course, Parliament will have to reconvene first before amendments to the Act can be tabled and passed.

“There is curiously little art concerning the efficacy of reason — perhaps simply because reason is not noticeably efficacious."

- Nicholas Mosley -


  • The French Senate’s approved a motion to ban girls under the age of 18 from donning the hijab in public. The ban is not yet law, however, as it must first be endorsed by France’s National Assembly.

    Several people have said this is discriminatory and Islamophobic, and asked why hijabs are being banned while nun’s habits are allowed. No acceptable answer has been given.
  • Britain’s Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s longtime consort, passed away on Friday. Phil, who’d have turned 100 in June, will be remembered for his sartorial style as much as his many racist remarks
  • The Grim Reaper also came for rap star DMX on Friday, a week after he suffered a heart attack. If you’re not hugely familiar with his work, check out this masterpiece. It’s a brilliant example of rap’s art as well as its power to deliver social messages.
  • A new Jesus statue in Brazil will be taller than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer when completed. At 43m, the statue —Christ the Protector — will, however, not be the tallest Christ statue in the world. That distinction belongs to the Jesus Buntu Burake statue in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • Hideki Matsuyama has won the 2021 Masters, becoming the first Japanese man to win a golf major. Tbh, it’s ironic that a Japanese has finally won one of the big gongs considering the country’s long-standing love affair with the sport seems to be waning.


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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