MCO: Lather, rinse, repeat
On we go into MCO Phase 4
By 5.25pm yesterday, an online poll conducted by the National Security Council (NSC) on whether or not the MCO should be extended had garnered just under 81,000 votes, with 89% voting that it should. Less than three hours later, Malaysians got their wish.
PM Muhyiddin Yassin went live on TV in his Ramadan address and announced that the MCO would be extended a further two weeks, from April 29 to May 12, meaning Muslims will have to spend more than half the puasa month, which starts today, under movement control. In all, if the MCO ends on May 12, it would have lasted for 54 days. But Moo warned it could go on for longer if things didn’t approve further.
Our PM8 said the government will, however, consider opening up more economic sectors, though this will be under strict conditions in order to ensure the safety of workers. He also said the government would work on an exit plan for the MCO which would revive the economy in the shortest time possible. The plan, he said, would focus on the short-, medium- and long-term.
Those statements, perhaps, were in answer to a Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) statement earlier that cautioned policymakers about the large cost the MCO has had on the economy. MIER had also warned that an extension of the MCO would cause a 2% contraction of the GDP and deepen the recession.
Muhyiddin also gave his assurances that the tens of thousands of students stuck in campuses nationwide during the MCO would be allowed to go home “soon”, adding that the students and parents should be patient as the relevant ministries were working things out.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says trying to balik kampung for Ramadan would be a no-no. In addition to that, with MCO restrictions in place – including a ban on Ramadan bazaars and a firm no to requests for restaurants to extend operation hours – it will be tough for Muslims to get their meals for buka puasa. Tough, but not impossible, as public transportation and wet markets will have their operation hours extended during Ramadan.
Whatever it is, it will be a really different – some might even call it strange – Ramadan this year.
Still not good enough
One of the most likely reasons the MCO has been extended is that the numbers, while having shown a huge improvement over the past week or so, are still not good enough.
Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday there were 71 new cases, with the number of recoveries (90) again higher than the number of new cases. However, there were two deaths, including a 32-year-old female healthcare worker. This brings the total number of infections in Malaysia to 5,603 and deaths to 95. On an even brighter side, the total number of recoveries has climbed to 3,542 (a 63.1% recovery rate), with the number of active cases now dipping to below 2,000.
We’re not sure, however, whether the latest number included seven people who tested positive for Covid-19 under a random testing initiative being carried out by the Selangor government in that state. The Selangor government is targeting 5,000 tests, focusing on high risk groups such as the elderly and those with noticeable symptoms such as flu and cough.
Anyway, Noor Hisham also said easing border control wasn’t a good idea just yet, so travel, whether for educational or social reasons, will have to wait. Restrictions for some other sectors, he said, may be eased at some time, but travel was not one of these sectors. He also announced that two Chinese firms were working on a Covid-19 vaccine and Malaysia was open to participating in trials.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry infographics released yesterday showed there are now no more orange zones in the country. The seven districts deemed orange zones the previous day have now been downgraded to yellow zones. There are also now 13 red zones, down from 14 the previous day, with Cheras now being declared a yellow zone too. The infographics listed 64 green zones as of yesterday.
The ministry’s zoning system is divided into green (no active cases), yellow (one-20 active cases), orange (21-40 active cases) and red (more than 40 active cases).
Why the delay, YB?
Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa yesterday apologised to Selayang residents who are under EMCO for the initial delay in getting food aid. He gave his assurances that all will now have enough food to last the remainder of the two-week EMCO period, especially as it’s now Ramadan.
But the question remains as to why there was a delay in the first place. The EMCO’s been in effect since Monday, and only yesterday did the issue get sorted out. That’s just too long. After all, it’s not the first time the gomen has placed an area under EMCO. Surely the logistics for EMCO food aid should have been worked out by now?
Before the issue was resolved yesterday, Selayang residents were so desperate that they pleaded with the authorities to allow sundry shops to resume operations in the area, just so they could avoid starvation. Previously, there were also reports of the large population of foreigners there, including Rohingya refugees, facing starvation.
But residents in EMCO areas aren’t the only ones facing problems with food aid. There also seems to be a problem with food aid for the needy during the MCO. In at least one part of Melaka, the food has instead gone to fattening up rats, while in Cheras, 700 packs of food were left undistributed in the Bandar Tun Razak Sports Complex.
In a nutshell, the government just needs to get its shit together where food aid is concerned lah.
Anyway, here are the rest of the important Covid-related articles from yesterday:
- Sultan Nazrin Shah has called on all leaders to comply with the MCO. Although the Sultan didn’t mention it, his statement (decree?) comes in the light of the controversy stirred up by a deputy minister and a Perak exco member who were pictured having a meal together in violation of the MCO. We hear you, Tuanku.
- In a related development, Perak MB Ahmad Faizal Azumu says the exco member in question won’t be suspended from duties as the state administration needed to focus issues arising from the MCO, such as how to reboot the economy. What a crock of shit.
- IGP Abdul Hamid Bador has reminded his men to exercise discretion when it comes to enforcing the MCO, after two brothers in Sabah had to use their government aid to pay fines for flouting the one-car-one-occupant ruling. One brother doesn’t have a car and had to thumb a ride with the other in order to withdraw money to buy necessities. We hate to tell you this, sir, but some of your peeps are not the brightest.
- The brothers aside, many are still stubbornly flouting MCO regulations, such as this teen girl who was among 11 caught twice for such offences. Sigh.
- The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Penang government to declare it needs to review the Penang Structure Plan 2030 and the Penang 2030 vision.
- A representative of the Pakatan Harapan presidential council will seek a meeting with Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to try to persuade him to extend the one-day sitting of the House on May 18 to two days. The council says a sitting of a single day breaches Parliamentary rules.
- The Road Transport Department will open counters at its offices from 8am to 1pm starting April 29 for selected services such as renewal of driving licences and the settling of blacklists and summonses related to licence renewal.
- And finally, everyone’s favourite London-based Malaysian surgeon, Dr Amalina Bakri, has been picked to be part of the UK’s first Covid-19 vaccine trial team.
Bits and bobs
There were a number of non-Covid stories that appeared yesterday. Here are some of the more relevant ones:
- Reports of a standoff between Malaysian and Chinese ships in the South China Sea are untrue, according to this sources article in Malaysiakini. However, this wasn’t really backed up by Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who says Malaysia is committed to safeguarding its interests and rights in the disputed waters.
- Malaysia has leaped 22 spots to 101 in the 2020 World Press Freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, above all other Asean countries, with Indonesia being the closest at 119. Let’s see how we do under a Muhyiddin administration now.
- The two Mongolian women who were allegedly raped by a police inspector should be released from custody and given whistleblower protection, say two women politicians. Meanwhile, the two women have sued the inspector and the PJ hotel where they were raped for acting on his orders.
- The Court of Appeal made history yesterday when it live-streamed proceedings for public viewing for the first time.
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- There are now more than 2.6 million cases of Covid-19 in the world, with more than 187,000 deaths. The US alone accounts for more than 49,000 deaths, averaging 2,000 lives lost every day.
- Meanwhile, a preliminary study of 3,000 New Yorkers has found that 13.9% have Covid-19 antibodies, providing further evidence that the virus had spread earlier than thought and infected more people than official numbers show.
- EU leaders have agreed to start a €1 trillion emergency fund to help member nations recover from the pandemic. However, the details of how it will work, a divisive point among EU governments, will be left until the summer.
- Britain’s Parliament met yesterday in an almost glitch-free video link session. Meanwhile, two people were the first to be injected in Covid-19 vaccine trials in Oxford involving 800 people, half of whom would receive the trial vaccine and the other half a control vaccine meant to protect against meningitis.
- In an exclusive report, Reuters says polls show that US President Donald Trump is behind Democrat presidential candidate-elect Joe Biden in three crucial states that he had narrowly carried in the previous election.
- India’s Mukesh Ambani has overtaken Chinese businessman Jack Ma as Asia’s richest person on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index after a deal with Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Inc. sent his Reliance Industries Ltd stock soaring by 10%.
- The first YouTube video, an 18-second clip by co-founder Jawed Karim about a visit to a zoo, was posted 15 years ago yesterday. It remains the only clip on his channel and has garnered 18 million views to date. Are you feeling old now?