Two ministries caused a lot of concern yesterday. One took us back to the Stone Age by advising women to, basically, please their men during these trying times, while another wanted Ramadan bazaars to continue despite the inherent risks posed by Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the numbers continue to rise as six more people died of Covid-19 yesterday, while efforts are still ongoing to trace 87 participants of the Sulawesi tabligh now considered “high risk”.

And lastly - would you believe that today marks the first anniversary of our little newsletter? We've gone from a small batch of 30 people to over a thousand subscribers today and we just want to say thanks to each and every one of you for being with us on this journey.

Just what were they thinking?

Doraemon voices, coy giggles and Ramadan bazaars

We really do have some nutcases in Cabinet. And that’s putting it politely cos we really don’t wanna call them “stupid”. Oh wait, we did.
 
Two pieces of incredible news emerged yesterday which really got us shaking our heads. The first was a real doozy, one that made us think we had been transported back in time to the 1950s, or maybe even earlier.
 
The Women and Family Ministry, you see, decided to give women some advice during the MCO, aiming to ensure domestic bliss continues during these trying times. Only thing is – the advice… well… sucked!
 
The ministry advised women to put on makeup, wear nice clothes, speak in a “Doraemon voice” and giggle coyly. Yes, that’s right. That’s the best the “Women’s Ministry” could come up with. But jokes aside, this kind of advice just screams sexism, though we wonder if we can call it that considering women sent it out. And also, Doraemon voice? Is somebody in the ministry into some weird hentai or something?
 
Why this is wrong is pretty obvious, but we’ll state it anyway. A ministry – led by two women – whose job is to protect, advocate for and empower women instead all but said that a woman’s job is to stay pretty, be submissive and keep their men happy. We’re surprised they didn’t just tell women to just keep to the bedroom and the kitchen.

Oh and did we mention that the O̶b̶e̶d̶i̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶W̶i̶v̶e̶s̶ ̶C̶l̶u̶b̶ ministry did not have a single word of advice for men? On how to help around the house, what to do to make their wives happy or help take care of kids? Nada. 
 
Of course, there was a huge hue and cry over the advice, sent out in a series of graphics as Facebook and Instagram posts, the first coming from former minister Azalina Othman Said, who cried “misogyny”, and rightly so. Various papers like The Star and the New Straits Times carried stories on the outrage the posts caused, as more and more people came forward to slam the ministry. 
 
The backlash led the ministry – much later – to withdraw the posts and apologise, but really the damage had already been done. 
 
You see, the MCO has put a very real strain on relationships and mental capacities.
Psychologists warn that being stuck at home 24/7 for such a long period of time could make or break families and relationships. Look at China as an example, where divorce rates climbed after the the Covid-19 crisis there. 

Suicide hotlines like Befrienders KL have seen an increase in calls, while authorities are also worried about victims of abuse and domestic violence being caught behind closed doors with their abusers for weeks on end.

All of this is in addition to the things that women have to go through even at normal times, such as mental load and emotional labour.

And the best thing our ministry could come up with was Doraemon voices? God have mercy on us all. 
 
Not wanting to be outdone by the Women’s Ministry was the Federal Territories Ministry, whose minister, Annuar Musa, said there was no plan to cancel Ramadan bazaars – despite, you know, the global pandemic we’re facing.

Annuar claimed everything would be better managed to mitigate possible infection scenarios. 
 
Have we called Annuar ‘stupid’ yet? How the hell do you manage “traffic” to ensure that Covid-19 doesn’t get passed from one person to another in a place where stalls, food, surfaces and people are going to be aplenty? That’s the very nature of a bazaar! 

To make matters worse, Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah made probably his only misstep (in our humble opinion) so far since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak by saying bazaars are still possible if Health Ministry guidelines are followed. 
 
OK, yes. We hear some of you saying Ramadan will only begin towards the end of April, more than a week after the current MCO ends. But what if the MCO is extended? 

Let’s say we do manage to bring down the Covid-19 numbers enough to warrant the lifting of the MCO. Is there any chance at all that we will have a zero-infection rate by then? About a snowball’s chance in hell is what we say.

Holding Ramadan bazaars could possibly cause a third wave of infections, and Malaysians, apparently, are saying “no” to that. So now, Annuar says the status of the bazaars is pending, following advice from the Health Ministry and the National Security Council (NSC). 

Annuar need not have said anything about Ramadan bazaars, with the holy month still weeks away. If he did say anything, he could have spoken about food delivery options or about families cooking and eating at home. He could have said anything, actually, than what he actually did. 
 
People like Annuar and Women’s Minister Rina Harun are starting to make much maligned ex-Education Minister Maszlee Malik look like a goddamn genius now.

More dead, more infected

Six more Covid-19 deaths and 140 new cases were reported yesterday, bringing the totals to 43 and 2,766, respectively. Another 58 patients, meanwhile, have recovered, bringing the total discharged to 537.  
 
However, health authorities are still trying to trace 87 people who attended the Sulawesi tabligh as these are now considered “high risk”. All those who attended the gathering are being placed in quarantine centres, as will all Malaysians returning from overseas from April 3 onwards, an order necessitated by the fact that many Malaysians returning home don’t seem to want to follow self-quarantine requirements. Ismail Sabri, meanwhile, has warned that those caught hiding possible Covid-19 positive family members will face action
 
Speaking of tablighs, Health DG Noor Hisham says the 17 Covid-19 cases detected in under-lockdown Menara City One were all linked to the Sri Petaling cluster. In his daily briefing, Noor Hisham also warned that statistics show those aged 26-30 and 56-60 were more at risk of contracting Covid-19 as they were frequently out of their homes. The former, he said, were likely students who were ignoring the MCO while the latter were heads of households who were going about getting essentials for their families. Noor Hisham also paid tribute to health workers nationwide, saying their dedication was “nothing short of amazing”. 
 
Meanwhile, Kuantan in Pahang and the Johor districts of Muar and Kulai (yes, we got it right this time… it is Kulai) have been declared “orange zones” as far as Covid-19 hotspots are concerned. Orange is one category below red zones. According to Health Ministry definitions, orange zones are those with between 20 and 40 Covid-19 cases, while anything more than that are considered red zones. 

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry will engage local councils on how to carry out proper disinfecting work. This after Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin was lambasted for what was called a publicity stunt by donning hazmat gear and spraying roads with disinfectant. The minister, however, remained unrepentant, saying it was better to sanitise more than sanitise less.

Errr… aunty. In a world where manpower and sanitiser are both limited resources, it’s not about sanitising more or less, but about sanitising what’s necessary versus what isn’t. May we suggest eating these foods to help those grey cells of yours?

Other things Covid-19

Financially, of course, we know that we will all be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. In fact, the World Bank has downgraded Malaysia’s GDP growth sharply from 4.5% to -0.1%. 
 
There are even downsides to the gomen’s RM250 billion (or do we call it the RM25 billion?) economic stimulus package, with Fitch Solutions saying Malaysia’s reliance on banks and pension funds was a risk to long-term growth.  
 
With the World Health Organization warning that the epidemic is “far from over” in Asia, there is no telling how long we will have to put up with being in danger of contracting the coronavirus. And the SME Association of Malaysia has warned that 33% of SMEs here have funds that will only last them till the end of March (which was yesterday, in case you forgot) and a further 37% till the end of April. 
 
The Malaysian Medical Association has warned that the new, stricter MCO rules will hit private doctors hard. In general, many people are already turning to being deliverymen in order to make ends meet. So, long story short – we’re all being hit hard in our wallets.
 
Anyhoo, here are some other Covid-19 related news which came out yesterday:

  • Our King has again proved a breath of fresh air by telling the gomen that he will forgo his royal emoluments for six months amidst the crisis. Daulat Tuanku! 
     
  • PKR prez Anwar Ibrahim still insists that the stimulus must be debated in Parliament, though now he specifically mentions that it should be in May when the Dewan Rakyat sits next. He has also assured PM8 Muhyiddin Yassin the opposition would not use the opportunity to challenge his majority. OK then. 
     
  • Suhakam has reminded the gomen of its responsibility to protect children, as 71 kids were reported to have tested positive for Covid-19 at a tahfiz school. Quite frankly, we don’t know what else the government can do. It’s really up to us now.
     
  • Mercy Malaysia founder Dr Jemilah Mahmood has been appointed special adviser to the PM on public health issues. 
     
  • The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission in Sabah is probing allegations that RM100 food aid given by the state government to the poor is not being distributed properly and amounts to less than RM100. Corruption even at a time like this? Some people really are scumbags.
     
  • In Penang, 183 MCO violators were charged in court, but in a real WTF moment, a shortage of face masks saw a man accused of a drug offence brought to court with a garbage bag over his head because he had come into contact with a Covid-19 patient. 
     
  • We’ve all heard how bread seems to be a luxury amidst the MCO (thanks again, hoarders), but this is probably going a little too far. A delivery lorry for a bread company went missing in KL and was found many hours later in Terengganu. Funnily enough, all the bread was still there. Why? We really can’t say. 
     
  • Here’s a little good news. The MCO has led to better air quality all throughout Malaysia, thanks to reduced vehicle exhaust emission, industrial stack emission and open burnings. Yay, we guess.

Other bits and bobs

A number of other things cropped up yesterday, as life goes on despite the MCO, after all. Here are some of the things we thought we’d include here, at least in brief:

  • The MACC will probe the suspicious amount of cash being kept at the home of Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman after the ex-minister reported RM250,000 had been stolen from his house. Syed Saddiq has claimed the bulk of the money had been pooled from family members to be used for house renovations (what, you don’t believe in cheques or online transfers?). Police say six people have been called up to have their statements recorded over the theft. 
     
  • The corruption trials of former PM Najib Razak and wifey Rosmah Mansor will restart the day after the MCO, on April 15. We guess if the MCO is extended,  the trials will be postponed again. 
     
  • The drug trade is just too lucrative for smugglers to take a break, even during a global pandemic. The Customs Department foiled two attempts to smuggle RM6.19 million worth of ketamine and ketum leaves through KLIA’s free trade zone. 
     
  • Lastly, here’s a useful piece on how you can get that free 1GB daily allocation of data that was promised during this whole Covid-19 mess.

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • There are now more than 819,000 Covid-19 infections globally, with more than 40,600 deaths. Spain has overtaken China in the number of infections, with more than 85,000, while the number of deaths in the US has surpassed the East Asian country, with more than 3,400 now. 
     
  • After weeks of lying, denying and obfuscating, Donald Trump finally seems to be acknowledging the grim reality of Covid-19, warning the American public of a very painful two-weeks ahead. Experts estimate that the pandemic could kill between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans.
     
  • The death toll in the UK has risen 27% in a single day to 1,789, leading a minister to declare the rise “deeply shocking, disturbing”. 
     
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will send medical supplies to the US to aid the country combat the coronavirus. 
     
  • Geneticists worldwide are looking at data to determine who is most susceptible to Covid-19 infection. 
     
  • In a move to address public concern, China will include statistics on asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19. 
     
  • Indonesian president Joko Widodo has declared a public health emergency in a bid to combat the pandemic which has so far claimed 136 lives in the republic. 
     
  • The International Olympic Committee and the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have set July 23 next year for the start of the delayed Olympics.

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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