The army’s been called in to enforce the Movement Control Order. Sadly, there wasn’t much that Malaysians knew about the move until the boots actually hit the ground. But should we really have expected better communication, considering that the government’s comms with regard the MCO have been lousy from Day 1? Meanwhile, we now have 10 deaths and a total of 1,306 Covid-19 infections in the country. Sad times indeed. And lastly, if you're like us and going stir-crazy sitting at home, maybe you might want to try the #DudukRumahChallenge. Or if you're running out of ideas about what to cook, here are some recipes (some are non-halal) you could try.

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Cocking up even the simplest things

So despite apparently much better compliance of the MCO, the government, nevertheless, decided on Friday to deploy the army to help with enforcement of the order. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing has been clear about this decision since it was announced by Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Armed Forces Chief Gen Affendi Buang, denying an audio note that’d gone viral, was firm in the run-up to the deployment that the army would not be allowed to beat up people (social distancing, military style?). However, no other information was given as to what power they did have, what they would actually do after they’d strapped on their boots and hit the streets, as well as which regiments were being deployed. 

Sure, we now know the Royal Malay Regiment is involved; that they’re supposed to help at roadblocks, with patrols and crowd control at markets and supermarkets. But couldn’t we have been informed about this before? 

Though you’re seeing it more and more as countries grapple with Covid-19, sending the army in to deal with a civilian and, need we add, medical issue isn’t normally done. So the right thing would’ve been to give the rakyat all the facts. Regrettably, that wasn’t to be. Also, there’re STILL unanswered questions with regard the deployment like: are the troops being allowed to carry weapons or not? ’Cos while the Petaling Jaya police chief says they won’t be armed, this report and accompanying main pic clearly shows a soldier with a rifle.

To be honest, though, the info (or lack thereof) about the army’s deployment is just one part of the issue because, frankly, the communication overall has been godawful since PM Muhyiddin Yassin first announced the MCO. Take Senior Minister Fadillah Yusof’s statement about folks getting supplies, for example.

On Saturday, Fadillah, who’s also the Works Minister, announced that only heads of families would be allowed out of their homes to get basic necessities or medication, and if there were instances of more than one person seen outside, they’d have to explain themselves to the authorities. Now, yes, the guy didn’t exactly specify that “head of the family” means the father or husband, but surely that’s what a remark like that will be read and heard as by the majority of Malaysians, right? Was that necessary? Also, was it necessary for the Sabah Info Department to come out with that stupid ass guide for men on kitchen essentials for their homes? 

And then, of course, there was the stupidity and backtracking about face masks. One day, 3-ply masks were being set at RM2 a piece (up from just 80 sen) to kononnya encourage local manufacturers to produce ’em and importers to bring them in only for another minister to, a couple of days later, say no, the price has to be reduced ’cos the PM isn’t in agreement.

None of these cock-ups, however, have been more ridiculous – and potentially, more dangerous – than the Health Minister, the guy entrusted to see us through this crisis, going on national television and advising Malaysians to drink air suam to prevent being infected with Covid-19!

In case you missed it, Dr Adham Baba was interviewed on RTM on Friday and instead of sticking with facts, the minister chose to spew utter rubbish like “drinking warm water will eliminate the virus from the throat before it enters the lungs”. Worse, his pseudoscience wasn’t even challenged by the TV1 interviewer who must surely have already known about the World Health Organization debunking the water myth in February. 

Look, despite the questionable manner in which Perikatan Nasional assumed power, we’re willing to give the current guys in charge the chance to prove themselves. But this is bloody nonsense. No, scratch that. It’s dangerous nonsense that could very well lead to deaths. So, really, it’s not enough that Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has attempted to diffuse the situation by saying the ministry “only subscribes to evidence-based treatment”. 

What we need now is clarity. And leadership. And if that means the PM putting Adham out to pasture, then that’s what should be done. No excuses. We have a war to fight. And we need the right commanders in charge.

BTW, has anyone seen our Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin? His department’s released an FAQ outlining what is and isn’t allowed during the MCO but the guy, who was touted as the right man for the job when he was appointed, has been missing in action since the MCO was announced, leaving the likes of the Inspector-General of Police and other police bosses to speak to the rakyat. We’re not sure which is worse – ministers who turn up but are full of shit or ones that pull this invisible man nonsense. 

Hmmm. But hey, perhaps the dude has more important things to concern himself with right now. (See below.)

It's getting worse

The number of Covid-19 infections has gone up a whole lot since Friday, from 900 to 1,306. And worse, we’ve now had 10 deaths.

So far, six of the deaths have been traced to the tabligh gathering in Seri Petaling last month. However, there’s no information as to how many of the 46 people currently in intensive care are linked to that event.

What’s even more worrying is that even though only about 500 participants of the convention that’s contributed to more than 60% of Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases are yet to be screened, there could be many others hiding their links to the event and putting thousands, if not millions, of lives in danger. Like in Kedah, for example, where an entire hospital was forced to shut down and its medical personnel subjected to testing and quarantines after a patient who’d hidden whom she’d been in contact with tested positive. 

The patient, it seems, had been admitted for a routine delivery at the hospital. However, she only came clean about her contact with a family member who’d attended the tabligh when she developed a fever after giving birth. 

Indeed, there are others too that seem oblivious to the potential harm they could be causing, like the idiots who defied the lockdown in Penang to buy vegetables from the mainland and the ones who had a kenduri kepala kambing. However, the number of infections arising from the gathering in Seri Petaling make that particular cluster the main concern right now, which is why the authorities are going all out to trace the remaining participants and have even assured undocumented migrants who may have attended the gathering that they won’t be prosecuted for being in Malaysia illegally if they come forward to be tested.

BTW, speaking of the tabligh, remember the 80-odd Malaysians who were reported to have travelled for a gathering – that was cancelled before it could begin – to Indonesia? Well, it seems that a bunch of them were caught trying to sneak back into Malaysia by boat. All 12 are currently being held in quarantine in Sabah.

Remember how we gave you some suggestions to help from going bonkers from being stuck at home? Well, that wasn’t random. A psychology expert warns of a possible increase in mental health problems during the two-week (possibly longer?) MCO period. Here’s what he suggests you can do to keep that bad shit at bay.

Here’re some other important Covid-19 related highlights from the weekend:

  • It seems that we’re currently heading towards the mitigation phase of the disease outbreak, and Health D-G Dr Noor Hisham says it’s crucial that we break the virus transmission trend before we get there.
     
  • PJ has recorded the most number of Covid-19 cases in the country. The top three locations with the highest number of cases as of noon Sunday are PJ (96), Lembah Pantai (90) and Hulu Langat (75). For a full breakdown of the affected areas and the number of cases go here.
     
  • The government has gazetted 409 facilities as quarantine centres. The centres will be used to house Malaysians returning from coronavirus-hit countries as well as returning tabligh attendees. The 46 Malaysians who arrived home from Iran on Sunday will be among those quarantined at these centres.
     
  • Malaysia has accepted delivery of medical devices for police personnel, including goggles and protective gear, from China. Some 10 million face masks, meanwhile, have been ordered by Putrajaya. The government says priority will be given to frontliners, with the rest to be made available for public sale. How much they’ll retail for is the big question though, isn’t it?
     
  • A number of banks and financial institutions are offering moratoriums of up to six months on loan repayments to customers affected by Covid-19. Among the banks reported to be offering the relief are Maybank, Bank Rakyat, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Public Bank, Hong Leong Bank and Bank Islam. Meanwhile, Bank Negara Malaysia has limited ATM operation hours to between 7am and 10pm for the duration of the MCO. Most other services are unaffected. 
     
  • While certain states have imposed added restrictions on convenience stores and even 24-hour marts, 7-Eleven has announced that its stores will operate from 7am to 11pm only during the MCO.
     
  • The Health Ministry has confirmed that some staff from the Teluk Intan Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19
     
  • And finally, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has tested negative for Covid-19. The nonagenarian ex-PM is, nevertheless, still keeping to the recommended 14-day quarantine after coming into contact with Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last week and has since been hospitalised.

Odds and ends

Covid-19 was certainly the most important story here (and everywhere else) over the weekend. However, some other stuff did find their way into the headlines too.

  • “Cambridge educated” Marzuki Yahya has been sacked as Bersatu secretary-general. Marzuki, who is understood to be aligned to party chairman and former premier Maddey, will be replaced by Hamzah Zainuddin. That’s right, folks. Our beloved Home Minister. 
     
  • The trial to determine the culprits behind the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 will resume today. However, the number of persons allowed to attend will be limited due to concern over Covid-19. The case was adjourned on March 10.
     
  • Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman claims the allocation for his constituency of Muar has been pulled by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Bersatu Youth chief, who says he will be using his salary for those requiring funds in the area, has questioned whether constituency’s allocation was frozen ’cos he supports Maddey, not PM Moo. PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil also claims his allocation has been withdrawn. Brilliant, isn’t it? We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and shit like this is still happening.
     
  • AirAsia Group Bhd says an internal inquiry has cleared its two top executives – CEO Tony Fernandes and chairman Kamarudin Meranu – from corruption allegations and that the review found that all sponsorship deals with Airbus were above board. Tony and Kamarudin, who stepped aside in February to facilitate the inquiry, have been reinstated.

“I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”

- Kenny Rogers and the First Edition -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Italy’s Covid-19 death toll keeps rising, with the country now having recorded 5,476 deaths. Meanwhile, China, the former worst-hit country and where the disease was first reported, has relaxed its two-month lockdown of Wuhan despite reporting new imported cases. More than 340,000 people have been infected by Covid-19 worldwide, with close to 15,000 deaths recorded.
     
  • Turns out all those stories about animals taking back quarantined cities were bogus. But while National Geographic isn’t sure about that pic of drunken elephants in Yunnan, it’s certain the so-called Venetian dolphins were filmed in Sardinia and that swans do regularly appear in the greater Venice area.
     
  • More famous peeps have tested positive for Covid-19. These include footballers Marouane Fellaini and Paulo Dybala as well as Italian soccer legend Paolo Maldini; opera star Placido Domingo and Bon Jovi keyboard player David BryanLost actor Daniel Dae Kim and US senator Rand Paul. Elsewhere, German chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into self-quarantine after a doctor whom she was in contact with was positively diagnosed.
     
  • Data from China suggests that over a third of Covid-19 cases may be “silent carriers” after over 43,000 people there tested positive for the virus despite not showing any symptoms.
     
  • Country music icon Kenny Rogers – whom we quoted in this newsletter just last week – passed away Saturday from natural causes. The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and one-time chicken king was 81.

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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