The movement control order (MCO) has been extended and we'll all be stuck at home till April 14, at the very least. It's a necessary move, but also one that will hammer our economy and cause the loss of 2.4 million jobs.

Meanwhile, the country saw its deadliest day yesterday with five Covid-19 patients dying, bringing the total death toll to 20. And the worst may yet to be as the Health Ministry confirmed what a research house had said previously - that there's the possibility the infection rate could peak next month at 6,000 cases or more.

And this is a crucial PSA: Blood bank supplies are dwindling. The National Blood Centre is appealing for donors to come forward and replenish supplies. It has also released a list of dos and don’ts for blood donation during the pandemic. Come on, folks. Let’s do what we can! Also, please forward this email via Whatsapp or social media so more people are aware of the blood shortage. Also, we hope you guys are coping as well as can be expected with Covid-19 and the MCO. Drop us an email to let us know how you're keeping yourselves from going nuts at home (we could use the advice!). But most importantly: stay safe, stay strong.

MCO extended

Strap in, this is for the long haul

Muhyiddin Yassin must be a BTL subscriber!
 
Mere hours after after our humble newsletter came out yesterday, saying it was inevitable that the MCO would be extended, he addressed the nation in a broadcast. Many people thought nothing of it, saying he’d probably just make his “stay home” plea again. 
 
But lo and behold, he did exactly what we had told him to do hoped he would. He announced that the MCO would be extended by two extra weeks, ending April 14. The numbers were just not good enough and, in fact, new positive cases were on the increase. Moo did the smart thing by announcing this early on and not waiting till the last minute as he had earlier said he would. 
 
Muhyiddin also praised Malaysians for abiding by the MCO (for the most part, we guess), saying they had come up with creative ways of spending time at home during the order. 
 
Here’s what else our glorious leader said:

  • Things are likely to get worse. A week ago, there were 673 cases, but now this had nearly doubled. (Actually, it’s almost tripled, but more on that later.)
     
  • The Health Ministry is prepared. Moo said there are 3,585 beds at 34 hospitals across the country dedicated to Covid-19 cases and that 66% are still unoccupied. 
     
  • Charity organisations and zakat collection centres need to “rise” and play more “proactive” roles in identifying and helping the needy, regardless of race or religion. 
     
  • Medical frontliners dealing with Covid-19 cases are exhausted. Moo has ordered the Health Ministry to give them a break to “rest and recharge”. He said volunteers comprising doctors, nurses and volunteer bodies could be moved in to take over duties in the meantime. 
     
  • He will be announcing a new, more comprehensive stimulus package on Friday and that “no one would be left behind”.


Of course, you can never please some people. DAP’s Wong Chen slammed Moo’s speech, saying it was a PR disaster for Muhyiddin to announce the extension without announcing any “goodies” for the people and claiming the PM had a “cavalier attitude”. 
 
Sorry lah YB, but your statement just smacks of someone playing to people’s emotions. What was more important was for the PM to announce the extension as we need to ensure the battle against Covid-19 is successful and the people needed to know in advance. Besides, to wait a few days for the announcement of the stimulus package is no big deal.
 
That said Pakatan, as a bloc, did have some decent suggestions. The Opposition coalition issued a statement calling for a RM150 billion stimulus package, which they said is roughly 10% of the nation’s GDP, a percentage similar to what the US and Germany were rolling out.
 
Pakatan welcomed the loan moratorium announced by Bank Negara Malaysia but said this won’t help those who rented homes, or small businesses where wages were the highest cost. They recommended three measures to be taken – cash injections such as RM1,000 monthly Cost of Living payments to B40 families, the expansion of provisions to ease cash flow for SMEs, and a moratorium on all utility fees for six months. The last suggestion was echoed, somewhat, by activist Lee Lam Thye, who suggested utility companies give higher discounts during the MCO. 
 
These types of constructive suggestions (and not Wong Chen’s petty shit) are sorely needed now – the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research has warned that the two-week extension of the MCO will result in the country’s GDP contracting further, which could result in up to 2.4 million people losing their jobs.
 
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s most invisible of men, the “missing” member of Moo’s Cabinet, Hamzah Zainudin, has finally popped up. Our Home Minister says Putrajaya was not, at least at the moment, thinking about imposing a total lockdown. The situation, he says, didn’t warrant it for now. 

That Hamzah has been silent for so long, considering the people enforcing the MCO are mainly cops, who fall under his purview, is perplexing. We called that out a few editions ago. That he has said something, finally, is a bit of a relief. Are all the members of Moo’s Cabinet secretly BTL subscribers??!? YB, bagi projek satu!

Deadliest day yet

Yesterday saw Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announce five people had lost their lives to Covid-19 – the highest death toll in a single day since the outbreak here began. The number of fatalities in the country now stands at 20.
 
Noor Hisham announced the death of the last person, a 76-year-old man linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster who died in Kelantan, last night, following his earlier news of the four other people who had died. Noor Hisham also said that as of noon yesterday, there were 172 new cases, bringing the total number to 1,796. Of the new cases, 71 were linked to the Sri Petaling cluster. So far, 199 people have recovered from Covid-19 and been discharged. 
 
Of the 73 healthcare workers who are confirmed Covid-19 positive, 47 were believed to have been infected while attending weddings in Bangi or Putrajaya attended by some participants of the Sri Petaling tabligh. The weddings, he said, were that of a doctor and a nurse, hence why so many healthcare workers were there. The remaining infected healthcare workers had histories of overseas travel or close contact with those infected. 
 
Meanwhile, he says the Health Ministry is expecting a huge spike in the number of new cases next month, possibly hitting 6,000 infections. However, the ministry hopes measures currently being taken will work in time to prevent this. This confirms research house JPMorgan’s analysis the previous day. Noor Hisham urged healthcare frontliners to stay strong and be safe, adding that the public needed to play their part by abiding by the MCO. 

The Health Ministry is also mulling the possibility of using two unregistered drugs which are said to have shown positive effects in Japan and China in treating Covid-19. However, both the drugs – Avigan, a flu drug, and Fukaikan – have side effects, and so the ministry has to consider carefully the approval to use them.

All other things Covid-19

It seems the MCO has really, really irked vegetable farmers in Cameron Highlands and delivery truck drivers. Restrictions in movements and market operating hours have seen farmers dump thousands of tonnes of vegetables, saying they would rather stop their service than have to go through all the trouble. 
 
But KL police chief Mazlan Lazim advised workers, especially those in the agriculture sector, to be patient. He said there was no move to cut the food supply chain and that the MCO is merely to ensure people stayed home so Covid-19 doesn’t spread. Basically, there are bound to be some difficulties lah, peeps. Just stick to what you need to do and have some patience. Perhaps in light of this development, and panic buying by some miscreants, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying there are enough essential items to go around. 
 
Meanwhile, more good people are coming to the fore to help their fellow Malaysians in this time of national need. Pahang MB Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, his 11 exco members and seven DAP assemblymen have pledged 10% of their salaries to the state government’s Covid-19 fund. No word yet on whether Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor is gonna spare any of his pocket money to help his countrymen.

Meanwhile, OYO Malaysia has announced that healthcare professionals engaged in the battle against the coronavirus can stay for free at its three partner hotels near the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Shah Alam Hospital and Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban, until April 14. 
 
Here are some other bits of coronavirus-related news which came out yesterday:

  • The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry has set up a Special Covid-19 Screening Team to run tests at 10 diagnostics labs. Each lab is capable of conducting more than 1,400 tests a day. 
     
  • Singapore, sadly, won’t be extending temporary housing for Malaysian workers in the island republic, despite Putrajaya extending the MCO till April 14. The government there has instead urged employers to find “more sustainable” housing for their Malaysian workers. 
     
  • The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has urged banks to provide some sort of flexibility for credit card holders who may be finding it difficult to make monthly payments due to the pandemic. This is especially important as most transactions are now being done via credit card. Good idea, we think. 
     
  • Here’s something the MTUC is gonna loathe. An economist is warning that forcing employers to pay full wages or not retrench workers could have disastrous implications. It’s the kind of thing we hate to hear, but which we have to admit rings true. Tough times, ahead, folks.
     
  • Here’s some good news. IGP Abdul Hamid Bador says the national crime rate has gone down by an incredible 70% thanks to the MCO. However, there are still a lot of break-ins and bike thefts. It would really bloody suck if somebody is being good and keeping to the terms of the MCO but catches Covid-19 from some low life who breaks into their house.
     
  • Meanwhile, Abdul Hamid warned MCO recalcitrants (now there’s a word we haven’t heard in a while) that they could end up being handcuffed if caught breaking the order. Don’t be upset if you’re cuffed and have to spend three or four nights in the lock-up, he says. So far, 107 people have been arrested for breaking the MCO and some have even been charged in court.

“You see Obelix. It’s not fear that gives you wings – it’s love.”

- Asterix The Gaul -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The global death toll from Covid-19 has breached 20,000, with more than 450,000 confirmed cases. Some 110,000 have recovered. 
     
  • Spain has overtaken China, becoming the country with the second highest number of deaths at 3,434. The nation with the highest number of fatalities is still Italy, which now has 7,503 deaths.  
     
  • The World Health Organization says countries need to use their lock-down time to “find and attack” the coronavirus by expanding, training and deploying their healthcare workforces as well as implementing systems to find every suspected case and ramp up testing. 
     
  • G20 leaders are expected to hold talks via video conference today, with the US and China expected to call at least a temporary halt to their Covid-19 blame game to try to focus on the challenges of the pandemic. 
     
  • Britain’s Prince Charles has tested positive for Covid-19, but remains in ”good health”. Wife Camilla has been tested but doesn’t have the coronavirus, apparently. Both are in self-isolation in Balmoral. 
     
  • We don’t know how we missed this yesterday. Albert Uderzo, the creator of the much-loved Asterix comic books, has died aged 92. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that his son-in-law specifically mentioned that he died in his sleep at home and not of Covid-19.

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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