MCO relaxation brings hope
And now, the end is near
… or so Frank Sinatra sang in his 1969 hit My Way, written by Paul Anka.
Sure, it isn’t really the end of the MCO, nor the fight against Covid-19, but it does seem like we can glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel, especially with the relaxation of certain movement control regulations.
It actually all started last week, with the government saying students stuck at various campuses in the country would now be able to return home. Then there was Tuesday’s announcement about businesses allowed to operate during the MCO being given the green light to go fully operational. And yesterday, we found out that the latest federal gazette on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Infected Local Areas) now allows for two members of a family to go out to buy necessities or seek medical assistance.
This latest bit of news is sure to be greeted with joy by some Malaysian men as they can now have their wives along while grocery shopping and no longer have to stand in the aisles of grocery stores scratching their heads (or other body parts) wondering just what to buy or where to get stuff.
The new rule was confirmed by senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who added that this would be supported by the allowance of two people in a family being in the same car. And while folks will still only be permitted to travel within a 10km-radius of their homes, there will be a little leeway given. For instance, if you’re seeking medical treatment, you can now drive 15km to a clinic. But don’t drive 30km lah when there is something nearer. Unfortunately, this new flexibility doesn’t apply in Sabah.
The government will now also allow air-conditioner maintenance and plumbing services to be carried out during the MCO, without prior approval from the International Trade and Industry Ministry. However, house owners will first have to provide details of the contractors to the nearest police station.
But, wait. There’s more! The government is also thinking about allowing physical exercise and non-contact sports to be carried out. This means you may soon be able to go for your much-missed walks or jogs, or even play tennis or badminton. Who knows, eh?
The relaxation of MCO regulations comes on the back of lower numbers of new Covid-19 cases and an increase in the number of green zones in the country over the past two weeks.
In the case of green zones, there are now 85 green districts in the country. As for Covid-19 cases, meanwhile, there were 94 new ones reported yesterday, the highest figure in the last 12 days. However, this is still a two-digit number and it seems that the vast majority of new cases were “imported”, as 72 of them were Malaysian students returning from Indonesia. There were also 55 recoveries recorded yesterday, and better still, no fatalities! Meaning the death toll remains at 100.
In other news, with many parents now set to return to work, what with certain businesses being allowed to return to full capacity, the government is looking at standard operating procedures (SOPs) to allow childcare centres to open. As for schools, however, it could take between two and four weeks after all economic sectors are allowed to open before any are back in session.
There are still some warnings we need to take heed of, for sure, however. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress warns that the gomen has to ensure bosses enforce strict social distancing and hygiene SOPs for workers. Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also warns that Malaysia has seen mutations of the virus that causes Covid-19, of which there are reportedly more than 30 worldwide.
This means we still have a long way to go before the battle against Covid-19 is done and dusted here in Malaysia. And even when we do win the war, we have to remain vigilant. So, yes, rejoice at the impending end, far though it may still be. But be forewarned.
Good news, silly views
And while we’re glad the end is nigh (the MCO, not the world), allow us also to say we’re happy a certain single mother has gotten her excessive (we think, anyway) 30-day jail sentence for violating the MCO reduced to a RM1,000 fine.
If you recall, we had wondered whether there was more to B. Lisa Christina’s story than just a simple violation of the MCO when it first broke. However, we now know that there wasn’t. All Lisa did, it seems, was strike up a conversation with some folks after buying a packet drink from a nearby shop.
She was charged with two others for the offence. But while the other individuals were each handed RM1,000 fines by the magistrate, Lisa got sent to jail. No one, except for the learned judge though, knows why this was the case.
Anyways, what we’re really not happy with is how a certain senior minister has come out in defence of a couple of VIP MCO violators. The VIPs we’re talking about, of course, are Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak executive council member Razman Zakaria, who were fined RM1,000 for a similar offence.
According to Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s though, the VIPs didn’t violate the MCO, but were fined merely for breaching SOPs for elected reps, who are allowed to move about freely but have to adhere to such things as social distancing “norms”.
We really don’t understand the logic here, and from a so-called “senior minister” at that. YB, they pleaded guilty to breaking the same law under which all other MCO violators are charged. So how is their offence any different? Thankfully, at least one lawyer agrees with us.
Meanwhile, in other legal matters, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh claimed trial yesterday to causing unrest by spreading fake news. She had allegedly committed the offence when she shared a video purportedly showing chaos at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex in Johor Baru, caused by Malaysians returning from Singapore. The video clip was later found to be of a fire drill from last year.
Anyhoo, here are some of the other more relevant Covid-19 stories from yesterday:
- The Malaysian Bar has called for a longer meeting of Parliament than the present one-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat as legislation is needed in order for the government to properly plan an exit strategy for the MCO. We agree.
- Speaking of exit strategies, Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan has cautioned against extending the MCO beyond May 12 and says it’s now time to prep for post-MCO socio-economic recovery. Errrr … we do believe the government has already mentioned that it’s looking into it lah, YB.
- In the more here-and-now, a coalition of business associations and trade bodies is pressing the government to enact a law that protects companies from the inability to fulfill contracts due to the MCO. Another reason why we support the Bar’s call for a longer meeting of Parliament.
- Bank Negara Malaysia has allocated RM5 billion for another line of credit for businesses hit by the downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and MCO.
- That money will come too late, though, for GTower Hotel in Penang and another five-star hotel in Melaka, which will soon shut down. In fact, the Malaysian Association of Hotels says many more hotels will be closing down over the coming months.
- Some 50,000 Covid-19 rapid test kits from South Korea will arrive tomorrow and be immediately sent to East Malaysia, as Sabah and Sarawak are to be prioritised. Another 100,000 kits are expected to arrive the following day, for distribution to various states.
So, a bunch of other things happened yesterday, and here they are:
- A police inspector who allegedly raped two Mongolian women he’d arrested at a roadblock pleaded not guilty to human trafficking and abuse of power. He will reportedly face eight charges of rape and one of assault today.
- Former PM twice over Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called for an end to the hatred being shown to Rohingya refugees, saying this is akin to the hatred shown to refugees who fled communist rule in Vietnam. Meanwhile, de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri has been urged to rein in hateful comments being directed at the Rohingya.
- Meanwhile, police are investigating a Facebook Live session by three former Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, now residing in the United States, which featured a video clip of other Rohingya going through firearms training ostensibly to ensure they are prepared to defend themselves against any trouble.
- They were once friends, then enemies, then frenemies, then allies. But all is apparently still not well between former PM Maddey and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, who took potshots at his former boss in a new interview. According to Anwar, he doesn’t crave becoming PM, but noted slyly that it’d be “crazy to continue being PM” at the age of 90 or 95. The interview also saw Anwar terming former party No. 2 Azmin Ali’s defection to Bersatu “treacherous” but not personal.
- Umno veep Khaled Nordin has warned that using political rewards in the form of appointments to the boards of government-linked companies is not the way to strengthen Perikatan Nasional. PM Muhyiddin Yassin has come under a lot of criticism for recent appointments of Perikatan politicians to chairmanships at GLCs.
- There have been 39,002 cases of dengue in the country since Dec 29 last year, a decrease of just over 4,000 cases from the corresponding period last year. Could this be a happy circumstance of people staying at home more during the MCO?
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The number of Covid-19 deaths in the US, the worst-hit country, has topped 60,000 and is on track to be deadlier than any flu season since 1967 – when 100,000 people died. Meanwhile, the country looks set to announce approval for experimental antiviral drug Remdesivir to be used in treating the coronavirus.
- Vietnam has announced that it has contained the Covid-19 pandemic following aggressive mass testing carried out there. The country had reported only 270 cases, with no deaths, since detecting two cases in January.
- The International Labour Organization says almost half of the world’s workforce are in danger of immediately losing their jobs thanks to Covid-19.
- Just days after returning to work following a bout of Covid-19, British PM Boris Johnson has announced the birth of a son with fiancée Carrie Symonds.
- Democrat Joe Biden is contemplating naming his potential Cabinet, which may include some Republicans. The US presidential election isn’t till later in the year, by the way.
- Indian actor Irrfan Khan, whose career spanned four decades and included hits in the West like Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi and Jurassic World, has died after a long battle with a neuroendocrine tumour. He was 53.