Today is the first day of the latest phase of the MCO. The enhanced movement control order (EMCO) has been lifted in one area (well, most of it anyway), but another area, right in the beating heart of our federal capital, has been added to the growing list.

Nationwide, the number of recoveries from Covid-19 is nearly 50% of the number of cases. But is this really cause for relief, or are we just not detecting enough cases?

And, it looks like politics joins death and taxes as some of the only things that are certain in life in Malaysia.

MCO: Phase Three, Day One

Not out of the woods yet

It was a good news, bad news and shittier news kinda day yesterday. On the bright side, the EMCO for Hulu Langat was lifted, though one tahfiz school and a house are still under lockdown. 

On the bad news front, a new cluster – the 28th in the country so far – was discovered in Sendayan, Negeri Sembilan, with 39 people infected there. The victims include 13 tahfiz students and their parents. 
 
But the shittier news was the announcement that the entire Masjid India area has now been placed under EMCO. The Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion flats there are on lockdown already, and now Jalan Masjid India, Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Jalan Dang Wangi, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Melaka and Jalan Ampang will also be locked down for two weeks, until April 28.

The lockdowns at the flats, as well as that of Menara City One, also in KL, and Kampung Dato Ibrahim Majid and Bandar Baharu Dato’ Ibrahim Majid in Simpang Renggam, Johor, will also be extended till April 28. 
 
But don’t despair (too much, anyway), as Malaysia is still well below projections of the number of Covid-19 cases. 5 more people died yesterday, bringing the total to 82, and 170 new cases reported (for a total of 4,987). The number of recoveries registered in the previous 24 hours stood at 202. This brings the total number of recoveries since the pandemic reached our shores to 2,478.
 
Oddly, 75% of the 82 people who’ve died so far have been men – the theory is that this is because the Sri Petaling tabligh, which is responsible for 39% of all the infections in the country so far, consisted mainly of men. 

When you look at the ratio of deaths to infections, Malaysia doesn’t look as bad as the global average. Worldwide, Covid-19 has infected close to 2 million people, with more than 124,000 deaths so far.
 
The World Health Organization says Covid-19 is 10 times deadlier than swine flu. Just how exactly does it compare to past outbreaks for which data is readily available?

  • The Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 saw more than 500 million people infected, with a death rate of about 2% 
  • Seasonal flu sees anywhere between 290,000 and 646,000 deaths yearly, but its death rate is just 0.1% of people who contract the virus  
  • H1N1’s mortality rate was just 0.026%
  • While the death rate for SARS was 15%, but relatively few people contracted it worldwide
  • Ebola, meanwhile, kills a horrifying 50% of people it infects  

But is it really safe to say we’re doing well, and do our numbers present an accurate picture of the rate of infections here?
 
Apparently, experts are at odds as to whether we’ve actually hit our peak in terms of the number of cases. Some of the arguments put forward include that there may be asymptomatic cases not being tested. Many experts say we aren’t being aggressive enough in our testing and are calling for more sweeping mass tests. 

Their logic makes sense – our numbers would certainly look healthy (pardon the pun) if infected people simply aren’t detected because they’re not being tested, right? The Health Ministry, though, says our limited resources means targeted testing remains the best option.

That said, Malaysia’s capacity for testing has been steadily increasing. At the start of the outbreak, daily capacity for testing stood at 4,500 samples. It now stands at 11,500. This is further expected to increase soon with the addition of five new labs – in Tawau, Sandakan, Miri, Bintulu and Kluang – making it 48 facilities nationwide.

Where to now, Malaysia?

While the majority of us are complying with the MCO’s stay home order, some are pig-headed enough to think the rules don’t apply to them. More than 1,300 people broke MCO regulations since March 18, the start of the order – some for the stupidest of reasons. The latest offences included a whole busload of people in Seremban and a pair of dating dimwits who were caught when they ran out of petrol after a 15-kilometre chase. 
 
That is why the cops will be employing stricter measures to enforce MCO 3.0, verifying every excuse, even to the point of following people home. And, police will now go back to arresting MCO violators, immediately charging them in court, instead of issuing RM1,000 compound fines, which the powers that be think may be too low an amount to deter people. 
 
Quite frankly, we find it really tough to understand just why some people are slow on the uptake about something like this. Is it an inconvenience to just stay home? Of course, it is. Is it the end of the world? Hell, no. Perhaps everyone should read about 87-year-old Wook Esah, just to gain some perspective. She lived through the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, and she says the MCO is nothing compared to what Malayans went through then. 
 
Meanwhile, a whole lot of other things happened yesterday, as far as Covid-19 is concerned. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • The leaders of ASEAN member nations “met” yesterday to discuss a bloc-wide response to the pandemic, with PM Muhyiddin Yassin proposing an ASEAN-level economic recovery plan and promising to share all data on the coronavirus with his counterparts. 
     
  • Muhyiddin also met with PKR president and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to discuss the outbreak, while Harapan wants a bi-partisan plan discussed in an emergency sitting of Parliament. 
     
  • Deputy Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon says the next sitting of Parliament will commence as scheduled on May 18, even if the MCO is still in effect. However, it will be carried out under controlled conditions. 
     
  • The government will impose a price control scheme on 12 essential items, including chicken, cooking oil, eggs and wheat flour, during the MCO. 
     
  • The Malaysian Trades Union Congress has urged PM Moo not to focus on the economy at the expense of public health and safety. This despite the country’s unemployment rate rising to 3.3% in February. 
     
  • An NGO has told the government that it should engage industry players to ensure there is enough supply of personal protective equipment for frontliners. The Health Ministry, meanwhile, has issued a breakdown of when various PPE items would run out, ranging from a mere 19 days to 78 days. 
     
  • Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, who is being investigated for uploading a fake video (allegedly, allegedly) on her FB account, has lodged a complaint with MCMC after a picture of her having her statement recorded by police appeared online. MCMC has launched an internal investigation into a breach of SOP as the picture was allegedly taken by one of its officers. 
     
  • Three Mongolian women have been detained after they lodged a police report for the alleged rape of two of their fellow nationals by a police inspector.

Moo’s moves make a mess

Even with the country on partial lockdown (and some in almost total lockdown), it seems politics will still not take a backseat.
 
In yesterday’s BTL, we touched on PM Moo’s moves to solidify his position as the numero uno in the Perikatan and national hierarchies. Today, those moves are still being criticised. 
 
PM-still-trying Anwar Ibrahim says Muhyiddin’s administration’s attempts to appoint Perikatan MPs to head government-linked companies (GLCs) was nothing short of a crime, especially when the rakyat is struggling to eat. He says if one or two MPs were appointed GLC heads, it would be OK, provided they had exceptional credentials. 
 
Transparency International-Malaysia, has waded into the debate, saying while the government has the right to appoint anyone it sees fit, such appointments should be of candidates who have relevant academic or professional qualifications, in line with the National Anti-Corruption Plan. The only problem is that plan was a Harapan legacy, so who’s to say if Moo and Co. will follow it?
 
But it’s not just Muhyiddin and Perikatan who seem to be keeping up with political shenanigans. Anwar, perhaps, should look at his own house, considering several sackings have occurred in his party. Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How and Betong branch chairman Vernon Aji Kedit were sacked from the party for allegedly cooperating with parties outside PKR and Pakatan. Up to 10 more branch chairmen are expected to face the same fate. 

Meanwhile, Wanita PKR information chief “Ratu Naga” Syarul Ema Rena Abu Samah was also sacked, and she is complaining the letter she received didn’t state the reason and that she hadn’t been given the chance to defend herself.

Khaleesi The dragon queen is known to have been a close ally of former PKR deputy president and Anwar nemesis (one of many, we guess) Azmin Ali, who is now with former Pakatan partner Bersatu. More interestingly, she was also Umno’s fake news warlord in the days before Pakatan took over, so it would be interesting – and not to mention awkward! – if she had to crawl back into bed with them. 

Anyhoo… Syarul Ema is right in that she should at least have been given a chance to defend herself. Instead, this looks like Anwar’s own version of the Night of Long Knives to make sure he still remains the main man in PKR.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Donald Trump has pulled US funding from the WHO, accusing it of severely mismanaging the coronavirus outbreak. This looks like a classic Trump-ian move to deflect blame from his administrations poor decisions and mishandling of Covid-19 in the US. Yet another chapter in the story of one of the world’s greatest shitheads. 
     
  • Trump is also crying mutiny after several state governors resisted his May 1 plan to reopen economies, a plan which was called “a bit overly optimistic” by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci. 
     
  • Saying Covid-19 has plunged the world “into a crisis like no other”, the IMF says the global economy will shrink by 3% this year – the worst decline since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
     
  • China is pressing ahead in efforts to find a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, with a number of clinical trials, including on humans, being given the green light. 
     
  • Both India and France have decided to extend lockdowns, the former to May 3 and the latter to May 11. 
     
  • In WTF news of the day, while sporting events the world over have been postponed or canceled, the WWE has been deemed an “essential service” in Florida and so, will resume live fights. Guess their understanding of essential is way different from ours. 

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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