We’re in this for the long haul, it would seem. If the PM’s new public health adviser has her way, Malaysians will have to avoid mass gatherings and continue to practice social distancing for between six and nine months after the movement control order (MCO) is lifted.

This comes as two more buildings are placed under enhanced MCO and three more districts join the red zone list, while the government is mulling different rules for different zones after the MCO is relaxed.

Staying away means staying alive

And I'd give up forever to touch you

Last week, a former Health DG warned that mass gatherings should be a no-no for at least six months after the MCO to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread. 
 
Those who pooh-poohed the idea, as it came from a former official, may have had their hopes crushed yesterday when Dr Jemilah Mahmood, the new public health adviser to PM Muhyiddin Yassin, concurred with Dr Ismail Merican.

Jemilah, the co-founder of Mercy Malaysia, says Malaysians will need to practice social distancing for between six and nine months, saying this would ensure Covid-19 was completely eradicated.
 
She said the pandemic had shaken Malaysians’ entire behavioural and cultural system, but things couldn’t go back to normal after the MCO. So, no more shaking hands, or salam, and we need to “lessen our habit of going out”. 
 
Considering this is coming from Moo’s very own adviser, we can probably guess this will be the advice of the gomen once the MCO is eventually lifted, whether it is on April 15 or otherwise. How this will be enforced, or whether it will be enforced at all, is anyone’s guess. How do you enforce anything like this without an MCO? People will go back to work, go out to eat at restaurants again and, well, generally be mixing with each other at things like weddings, birthdays, funerals, conferences, seminars and Tinder hookups.
 
All that seems pretty far away now, as we’re still grappling with Covid and the current MCO, which is set to end in less than a week. Two more buildings have been placed under enhanced MCO after 15 Covid-19 cases were detected there. The affected buildings are the Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion flats in Jalan Masjid India, KL. These buildings house 6,000 people, mostly foreigners, and all will now have to stay indoors and be screened by health authorities. 
 
In fact, considering the cramped conditions at the two flats, with some units found to be holding up to 30 people, the government is mulling moving residents to quarantine centres after screening them for Covid-19 – which makes total sense.
 
Putrajaya, Rembau in Negeri Sembilan and Jasin in Melaka have been declared red zones following increases in Covid-19 cases. Lembah Pantai in KL continues to be the district with the highest number of cases at 386, followed by Hulu Langat (324) and Petaling in Selangor (296). 
 
Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says things could be very different for zones marked red or green (no cases of Covid-19) should the gomen decide to relax the MCO. For instance, the government may decide factories and other businesses could open in green zones. But then, would someone in a red zone be able to go to work in a green zone? 
 
As such, many things need to be looked at and considered before any announcement on the relaxation of rules. What’s certain though, is that a new SOP will be coming out to tackle many aspects of life and movement in a post MCO-Malaysia. Talk about a New World Order, eh?
 
In other matters, Ismail Sabri said Malaysians the government would only subsidise RM150 a day for those who spend their quarantine in five-star hotels.The rest would have to be on their own dime.  
 
The Malaysian Association of Hotels kicked up a bit of a fuss, saying they were told the gomen would pick up the entire tab. But Ismail Sabri stuck to his guns, insisting hotels used as quarantine centres had also agreed to the RM150 cap. Time to go over the meeting minutes again, eh?

170 more cases, one death

Malaysia recorded 170 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total to 3,963 so far. The death toll climbed to 63 after a 71-year-old man who had attended the religious gathering in Sulawesi died, the first recorded case of a Malaysian participant of the gathering dying. There were also 80 recoveries, bringing the number of those discharged to 1,321
 
Sadly, 30 of the 150 healthcare workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 were directly infected in the line of duty, according to Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. And of the number of cases which have been recorded so far, 69 cases are considered “sporadic”, meaning health authorities don’t know how these patients became infected. 
 
Noor Hisham also pointed out why the Health Ministry discouraged using antibody tests to determine whether someone is infected with Covid-19. Using Patient 1031 as an example, he said a woman was seeking treatment at a private medical facility and was discharged after an antibody test came out negative for Covid-19. The woman died the next day, but not before infecting family members, four of whom also later died. 
 
Noor Hisham also confirmed that, like many countries, Malaysia is running out of reagents needed to conduct Covid-19 tests. There is enough to last a week, however, and he assures everyone a supply is on its way. 
 
And here’s one hell of a kicker. It appears that US President Donald Trump may not be so crazy after all, at least in one instance. Trump has been talking up the wonders of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid-19 despite there not being much evidence of this. But Malaysia has been using it on an off-label basis to good effect, according to Noor Hisham. This, he said, had stopped Covid-19 among patients from worsening and contributed to fewer patients in ICU. For the record, as of yesterday, there were 92 Covid-19 patients in ICU nationwide. 

Meanwhile, Malaysians working in Singapore have been asked to stay there for two weeks or so following stricter enforcement of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the island republic.

Back in Malaysia, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin deigned to grace us with his presence (this guy is harder to spot than the Malayan tiger) and said the gomen will identify where foreign workers – legal and illegal – are housed and ensure they stay put in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Going by how many illegal workers there are in the country, it’s clear that authorities can’t seem to track them down even in normal times, so good luck trying to do that now.

Other Covid stuff

Much has been said about the gomen’s new stimulus package for SMEs, and while many are lauding it, some say more needs to be done.
 
Chief among these are the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), which is urging the government to criminalise retrenchment of workers, at least for a period of time. This is because even though the government has widened the wage subsidy scheme, those in the RM4,000 to RM8,000 bracket, covering some 30-40% of the SME workforce, were not covered and were at risk of losing their jobs. 
 
Criminalising retrenchments? Really? That’s bonkers. What’s next? Nationalising the SME sector?
 
On the stimulus package – economists are also saying more needs to be done. They say the new package was generally good, but seemed to focus only on smaller businesses. They also say more attention needs to be paid to the Employment Retention Programme, which should be expanded to include informal sectors, via Socso, for those who are self-employed. Another suggestion is for the government to follow the UK, which is bearing 80% of all workers’ wages. 
 
Meanwhile, the brouhaha over the now-revoked government decision to allow brewer Heineken to continue operations continued, with Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Rosol Wahid (who now?) defending the former ministry sec-gen who issued the letter allowing for Heineken to resume production, saying he and his minister actually knew about it. Rosol says there might have been a misunderstanding as the letter was meant for Heineken to continue distributing existing stock, and not allow production of its alcoholic beverages. 
 
Meanwhile, de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri defended the fact that he had not commented on the issue earlier. He said his stance had always been consistent – that alcohol was haram for Muslims – but had not spoken up as he didn’t want to interfere with an issue concerning another ministry. Rightly so, we say, as this is an issue that doesn’t concern him or Muslims, which is a distinction the PPBM youth leader who protested against Heineken apparently failed to grasp.
 
Meanwhile, here are some other things Covid-related which came out yesterday:

  • The Sultan of Kelantan has followed the lead of other royals by saying he would return six months’ worth of emoluments beginning this month in doing his bit to help the nation overcome Covid-19. 
     
  • The Health Ministry will bear all costs for its Medicines By Post programme for three months, until June 30. 
     
  • The National Security Council has warned top civil servants and Malaysians working from home that hackers could be listening in as more and more people turn to video conferencing services. Among the services mentioned is Zoom, a free web video-conferencing application which has vulnerabilities that can allow hackers to manipulate the software. 
     
  • Zoo Negara will require zookeepers to go through temperature checks before reporting for duty as part of enhanced measures to ensure animals, especially primates, do not get Covid-19. 
     
  • Marathon enthusiasts will likely not be too thrilled with this. The KL Standard Chartered Marathon 2020, scheduled for June 13 and 14, has been called off
     
  • And speaking of roads, IGP Abdul Hamid Bador has warned that anyone shooting pictures or video footage of any roadblock with the intention of creating a negative image of the police in social media will face stern action. But dear Mr IGP, what if a cop is behaving in an unseemly or unprofessional manner is recorded doing that? What happens then? 🤔
     
  • And if you thought Big Brother will just be watching social media, think again. The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia has greenlighted the deployment of 92 drones from the police, armed forces and three private companies. So watch out for the eye in the sky too, peeps.

Bits and bobs

And finally, here are the other bits of local news from yesterday:

  • The country is on partial lockdown, but apparently the Bersatu party elections must still go on. OK, so it doesn’t mean it will go on while we are on MCO, but the list of candidates is already out. There will be a straight fight between el presidente Moo Yassin and challenger Mukhriz Mahathir for the top post, and another straight fight between former sec-gen Marzuki Yahaya and Perak MB Ahmad Faizal Azumu for the deputy post. 
     
  • The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has questioned Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and two others over the RM250,000 which went missing from the former minister’s home recently. The graft busters had previously said investigations would be initiated over the “suspicious” amount of money being kept at Syed Saddiq’s home. 
     
  • Khazanah Nasional has quashed a bid by Golden Skies Ventures to take over Malaysia Airlines, saying it was sceptical about the proposal as the firm had failed to prove its source of funding. 
     
  • Pontian MP Ahmad “Nasi Goreng” Maslan’s bid to strike out money laundering and false statement charges against him has been postponed to April 15 due to the MCO.

“Corona is spreading, this shit is no joke. It's no time to work or roam. The way you can fight it is simple my friends, stay the f**k at home.”

- Samuel L. Jackson -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • As of 3.40am today, the global toll from Covid-19 has seen more than 1.37 million infections, with more than 80,000 deaths reported. More than 290,000 have recovered so far. Meanwhile, in the US, New York state alone accounts for more cases than the whole of Italy and has recorded 731 deaths in a single day, the largest jump it has experienced so far. 
     
  • Workers around the world are facing their worst crisis since World War II, with about 1.25 billion people seeing their livelihoods threatened due to Covid-19.
     
  • As the two-month lockdown ends in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared, tens of thousands of people are reported to be preparing to leave to return to their jobs in other parts of China. 
     
  • The UN Security Council is set to meet tomorrow to discuss the global pandemic after nine of its member states requested a discussion on how it will affect UN operations worldwide
     
  • Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other parts of the country following a spike in Covid-19 cases. 
     
  • NZ Health Minister David Clark, who has called himself an “idiot”, has been demoted for breaking national stay-at-home measures by driving his family 20km to a beach.
     
  • An American study has shown that the coronavirus has “changed the way we Internet”, by looking for new ways to connect (mostly via video conferencing), entertain ourselves (Netflix and other streaming websites rejoice) and are suddenly more reliant on services that allow us to work and learn from home. The search for updates on Covid-19 has also pushed up readership for newspapers while video games are becoming more popular but sports have lost out. 
     
  • And finally, on a more light-hearted note: Samuel L. Jackson has come up with possibly the most badass – and hilarious – PSA over Covid-19. Check it out here.

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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