It's back to full lockdown for most of us. Needless to day, PM Muhyiddin Yassin's address on tougher Covid-19 curbs came with little surprises. Still, you'd think the clowns in gomen would have a proper handle on things by now.

In other news, the virus strain that's wreaked havoc in Britain makes its way here while another minister tests positive. Also, rumours swirl of a possible DPM appointment; and Dr Mahathir Mohamad hits back at being labelled a "dangerous extremist".

One more time ... with feeling

Let's start at the very beginning

Feeling déjà vu? We don’t blame you. 

Ten months on from that first hard lockdown, we’re (sorta) back at the very beginning with nearly half the country to be back under full movement control order (MCO) at midnight.

The new curbs, which will take effect from Jan 13 to 26, are being ordered in response to a surge in Covid-19 cases that’s taking a serious toll on our healthcare system. And let’s be honest, they’re damn well needed. 

You’ll find a pretty comprehensive breakdown of who and what’s affected here. But just in case you don’t have the time, here’re some basic deets:

MCO 2.0

(Where: Johor, Melaka, Sabah, Selangor, Penang and the FTs of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya)

  • Movement limited to within a 10km radius of home
  • Only two peeps allowed per household, per vehicle (for grocery/food shopping, etc.)
  • No group/social/religious gatherings, processions (including Thaipusam), sports activities and physical meetings/seminars/courses
  • Only students sitting for major exams (SPM etc) allowed to go to school but in adherence to strict SOPs. All other students will continue to study online
  • No inter-district travel
  • Economic activities restricted to the manufacturing; construction; service; trade and distribution; and plantation and commodity sectors. Everyone else to work from home
  • No dine-ins allowed at eateries/stalls/restaurants
  • Outdoor recreational activities allowed, but in adherence to strict SOPs (eg. limited to just two people per household, while maintaining a 2m distance)

Conditional MCO

(Where: Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Terengganu)

  • No group/social/religious gatherings, processions (including Thaipusam), sports activities and physical meetings/seminars/courses
  • Religious activities allowed in adherence to strict SOPs

Recovery MCO

(Where: Perlis and Sarawak)

  • Social gatherings allowed, albeit in compliance of SOPs
  • Religious activities allowed in adherence to strict SOPs

In addition to the above, interstate travel is being banned across the board.

Despite the above outline, several specifics remain fuzzy.

For example, while the Education Ministry’s clarified that the 2021 academic year will begin as scheduled except for schools in MCO zones (see above), there’s a lack of clarity concerning new students. 

You see, under the previous timetable Standard 1 and Form 1 kids were due to attend classes physically to make orientation easier. Yet the prospect of virtual lessons now poses questions about how these students are gonna be enrolled effectively into online classes, get oriented and, most importantly, study properly!

Did we learn from the hiccups of the first MCO? Has anything to be done to address the needs of poorer/rural students without access to the Internet or devices for online learning? Or will more students have to climb trees just to study?

Even so, props to MOE for issuing a statement on Monday, which is more than can be said for the likes of the Industrial Trade and Industry Ministry, Works Ministry and the National Security Council.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has promised a whole truckload of SOPs by 5pm today. That’s just several hours before the new curbs hit!

Why couldn’t these jokers have gotten their act together and given us all the deets yesterday seeing as how we’ve been down the MCO road before?

Britain calling

We’re still below the 28,674 bed capacity at the nation’s hospitals and quarantine centres, but only just. As of yesterday, active Covid-19 cases stand at 28,554.

And just in case that fact’s not worrying enough, a new highly contagious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that’s been linked to a surge of infections in Britain has reached our shores. Gadzooks!

The Health Ministry has assured the strain (name glamer, UK B.1.1.7hasn’t spread here beyond the index patient, who’d arrived from Britain last month. Here are more deets on the new strain.

Virus mutations are not new (remember the D614G super-strain?). And yes, UK B.1.1.7 hasn’t exactly been shown to be more deadly. Even so, Britain’s experience points to it being way more transmissible than the variant(s) currently here. And that’s enough to send shivers down the spines of our overworked medical frontliners, no doubt.

Mutations aside, Malaysia’s total infections, following yesterday’s 2,232 new cases, stand at 138,224. Covid deaths, meanwhile, increased by 4 to bring the overall total to 555

Here’re some other important Covid highlights from yesterday:

  • The first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is expected to arrive here by February end.

    Meanwhile, the gomen is purchasing another 12.2 million units of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. With this, Malaysia’ll now be able to inoculate 39% of the country’s population.
     
  • Phase 3 clinical trials of an experimental treatment developed by China’s Institute of Medical Biology Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences will begin this month at nine hospitals here.
     
  • Still on vaccines, Selangor’s looking to purchase five million doses for residents. It’s unclear, though, which manufacturer the state government plans to get the drugs from. Also, do states really need to strike out on their own with this? Wouldn’t it be better as a concerted Federal effort?
     
  • Women’s Minister Rina “Doraemon” Harun is the latest Cabinet member to test positive for Covid. Questions abound as to who she could’ve potentially infected. And, as one wag pointed out, this shows how dangerous Covid can be – you can get infected even if you do nothing!

To be No. 2

Pandemics and lockdowns will not keep the wheels of politics from turning.

As the nation waited for n̶o̶t̶ ̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶A̶b̶a̶h̶ PM Moo to confirm MCO 2.0 plans, rumours began circulating on the possibility of le premier ministre naming Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein as his deputy.

The deputy PM seat has been gathering dust since Pakatan Harapan’s Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was unceremoniously booted out. Moo’s Bersatu, as you know, is currently in the midst of a fight with Umno. Word has it that with support for him hanging in the balance, a decision was finally taken to pick a No. 2 for the country and appease a much disgruntled Umno (allegedly! allegedly!).

The choice, reports claimed, was between Izzy Yaakob and Hisham. However, according to sources quoted, Najib Razak’s cuzzy wuzzy was Moo’s preferred pick.

In a very potong stim move, the PM’s Office later denied the speculation. The PMO also rebutted stories on Moo’s ill health as the PM needing cancer treatment was another rumour doing the rounds. 

So how and why did news about Puff the Magic Hisham start swirling?

Well, according to one unnamed Putrajaya insider, it was all part of a ploy to ramp up support for an earlier demand that an Umno man is handed the DPM post.

There’s also the rumour Warisan may join PN, but that’s been denied too.

We dunno, of course, what’s the real story. But what we can tell you is Moo’s stock among his former friends has continued to plummet since Saturday, when Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub withdrew his support for Perikatan Nasional.

Yes, no one else’s joined Jazzy in officially renouncing Muhyiddin. But Umno strong man Nazri Aziz has, like several other Umno MPs, said he’s weighing his options.  

Incidentally, PM-forever-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim has called the decision by Umno reps to abandon the PN ship “smart” ’cos, it’s time for “new and strong leadership”. No guesses who Abang Nuar would have in mind for the top job.

Odds and ends

And here’re some other bits of news:

  • Money Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz has responded to criticism of his syok sendiri LinkedIn post on foreign investments. He claimed he and his team have engaged with more than 125 business groups, business and chambers of commerce last year.

    Zaf came under fire from the boss the European-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce for apparently not having met the group even once. It’s odd that Zaf met more than 125 parties but couldn’t spare the time for these Chamber guys, considering Europe accounted for 33% of our country’s FDI not so long ago.
     
  • The High Court heard from a witness on Monday how one of the cops convicted of murdering Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu admitted to a killing her shortly after his arrest in 2006.

    This was heard in a civil suit brought by Altantuya’s family.
     
  • Dr Mahathir Mohamad has accused the US-based website — Counter Extremism Project — that included him in a list of the world’s most dangerous extremists of intentionally twisting his words to imply he supports terrorism.

    The website lists Mahathir alongside leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State. As y’all know, we have no great love for this old man, but including him among the world’s worst extremists is beyond laughable. You want a dangerous extremist? Go look in the White House!
     
  • Squash Queen Nicol David is the only Asian in contention for The World Games’ Greatest Athlete of All Time award. The World Games is a multi-sports event meant for sports not contested in the Olympics. The winner of the Greatest Athlete of All Time award — that’s determined by online votes — will be announced on Feb 1. Baguslah Datuk!

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”

- Winnie the Pooh -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Global Covid cases moved past 90 million on Monday. One-third of that figure was registered in the last 48 days alone. Damn!
     
  • Experts have claimed the pandemic has led to three million masks being disposed of globally every minute. Three million face masks translate to roughly four Olympic-size swimming pools. Is there an environmental calamity awaiting us once (if!) this is all over?
     
  • Democrats in the US House of Representatives have moved a motion to impeach President Donald Trump over his role in “inciting” last week’s riots in Washington DC.

    The Dems had earlier tried to get Trump removed under the 25th Amendment to the US Consitution but were blocked by Republicans in the House.
     
  • More worryingly, the FBI has warned that armed protests are being planned in all 50 state capitals as well as Washington DC in the run-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration.
     
  • Vogue has come under fire for apparently “whitewashing” incoming US veep Kamala Harris’ cover pic. This is not the first time the fashion mag has courted controversy for failing to properly light and photograph people of colour appearing in its pages. Gymnast Simone Biles’ pics from August last year were similarly criticised.

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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