The backdoor government of Muhyiddin Yassin has extended the lockdown, or the MCO (movement control order) by 2 weeks until April 14 in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. In his televised address, the prime minister urged Malaysians to stay at home. He kept saying his government had no choice but to extend the lockdown to break the chain of infection.
Now, Senior Minister cum Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that after the first phase of lockdown (March 18 to 31), the National Security Council (NSC) is considering more stringent measures for the second phase (from April 1 to 14). He said – “The new SOP will be more stringent and after this, there will perhaps be stricter restrictions on shopping, food purchases and others.”
The statement from Ismail Sabri was as good as a declaration of emergency. It would be interesting to see the government deploys police, military personnel or SWAT teams standing guard outside every entrance of residential areas or placing metal barriers over every road junction in a bid to so-called stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
PM Muhyiddin is still trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. In fact, both prime minister and the defense minister do not know what else to do but to keep blaming stubborn defaulters of the partial lockdown to hide their incompetency. The backdoor government hopes by having a stricter rules and measures in the second phase, the virus will automatically go away.
Despite the Health Minister Adham Baba’s genius theory that there were already signs of a “plateau” in the number of Coronavirus cases, the country continues to register 3-digit new cases. As of Thursday (March 26), another 235 new Covid-19 cases have been reported, pushing the total cases to 2,031 while the death toll is 23 people – 60% of them were linked to the “Tabligh” religious cluster.
From the beginning, the first phase of lockdown was declared without a comprehensive study. Unlike the China’s Wuhan lockdown, Malaysia’s lockdown was nationwide. That was a huge mistake as it should be compartmentalized, meaning the lockdown should be restricted to each of the 13 states, and further drilled down to districts based on hotspots of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Basic troubleshooting 101 say you must identify the source of the problem, isolate them and fix it. But the genius Muhyiddin had instead sent panicked people scrambled for bus and train tickets and converge at transportation hubs, potentially spread the virus among them, and brought the tourist named Covid-19 back to their hometown or rural areas nationwide.
Thanks to the first phase of chaos lockdown which started on March 18, the 14-day incubation period of the Coronavirus means the next wave could explode in early April. And the scariest part is that the outbreak could happen anywhere throughout the country. Hence, it’s extremely urgent to track the remaining 3,800 Tabligh members because they contribute – directly or indirectly – 60% of the cases.
But convincing the religious members to come forward to be tested for the virus is just one of the problems. Despite the government’s assurance that there is plenty of food to go around, it will be a matter of time before panic buying starts again if the supply chain is not properly secured. It will be like Muhyiddin’s insistence that there were plenty of face masks, but people just could not buy it.
Yes, the food security is in jeopardy because the supply chain appears to be falling apart. The proof – hundreds of tonnes of vegetables in Cameron Highlands had to be dumped because of movement restrictions. Then the same logistic problem wrecked havoc in the fisheries sector when fishermen had to dump their catch because of failure in transportation to the factories.
Obviously, without consultation with the right people, the backdoor government was clueless about the supply chains of catching, storing, preserving, transporting, processing, packaging or selling fish in the fisheries industry. The government probably thought the fishermen’s job include parachuting their catch to the wet market using Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Did Muhyiddin’s most trusted lieutenant, de-facto deputy PM Azmin Ali, who has just been entrusted to ensure adequate supply of foodstuff during the ongoing movement restriction, realise that the prices of meats, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, pork, vegetables and other essential goods have spiked since the phase one of the current lockdown – suggesting profiteering or supply shortage?
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong admits today that Port Klang, Port of Penang, and Johor Port in Pasir Gudang have reached nearly 100% of their capacities to hold goods. That statement alone is the clearest indication that the transportation or logistic sector has been crippled by the half-baked movement control order since March 18 (a week ago).
Yes, as the police and army were busy catching MCO defaulters, vehicles of freight forwarders and hauliers have not fully functioning, either because they were intimidated by the authorities or were confused with the government policies. At the same time, there was zero enforcement or monitoring to prevent unfair profiteering or shortage of food supply.
Like it or not, there’s a fine line between “essential” and “non-essential” sectors due to in-depth integration in the supply chain. The Muhyiddin government might think vehicle workshops and spare parts shops are non-essential sector, but try to tell that to vans, trucks or cars that have broken down halfway during goods delivery.
Had the movement restrictions been enforced based on states, territories or districts, instead of a “big bang” nationwide lockdown, the farmers in Cameron Highlands may not have had to dump their vegetables and the fishermen would be able to sell their catch to their usual buyers. But the clueless government clearly had no idea how to manage dependencies in a complex economy ecosystem.
Amusingly, as the government keeps whining, moaning and bitching about many people still breaching the movement control order, the defense minister Ismail Sabri also admitted at the same time that the authorities have recorded 95% compliance rate on the sixth day of the lockdown (March 24). What was the 95% rate based on? Aren’t 95% a good number based on the current partial lockdown?
Muhyiddin’s biggest problem is the fact that the country is broke, thanks to massive corruption practiced by the previous Barisan Nasional government, of which he was part of since his political career began when he joined UMNO in 1971 (until he was sacked in June 2016). He then invited the same corrupt regime to form the Perikatan Nasional government early this month.
Under the former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the national debt ballooned to RM1 trillion. The outbreak of Coronavirus has caught the country without any strong financial muscles to help the people. It has gotten so bad that PM Muhyiddin had no choice but told Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity or race, to dig into their own retirement fund (EPF) to make ends meet.
It didn’t cross the minds of the backdoor government, however, that more than two-thirds (68%) of EPF members aged 54 had less than RM50,000 in EPF savings (based on a study in 2017). Therefore, allowing (or rather forcing) contributors to withdraw RM500 monthly from their own EPF account for 12 months means spending RM6,000 of their own money due to the failure of the government to protect its people.
In comparison, the U.S. lawmakers have just approved a US$2.2 trillion emergency relief bill to help Americans and business community during the current Coronavirus pandemic. In essence, American adults would get free cash of US$1,200 while children would be rewarded with US$500 in a stimulus package to help 150 million American households who earn less than US$75,000.
To make matters worse, now even hospital employees have been infected with Coronavirus. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah revealed that a whopping 39 healthcare personnel at Teluk Intan Hospital in Perak had tested positive for Covid-19 – suggesting that the institution, instead of containing the pathogen, might have spread the virus to the public.
Apparently, the Teluk Intan Hospital is just one of five hospitals infected by the virus when 80 medical staff under the Ministry of Health had been tested positive for the virus after they attended wedding events that were also attended by those who went for the mass “Tabligh” religious gathering at a Kuala Lumpur mosque – Masjid Jamek – from February 28 and March 1.
The infections of hospital personnel prove that a lockdown alone won’t break the chain of infection. To add insult to injury, it’s absolutely embarrassing that doctors, nurses and medical staff at hospitals have to make DIY protection gear from dustbin liners because there is a shortage of personal protective equipment. What happens to the billions of dollars in annual budget allocation?
Muhyiddin government is running like a headless chicken. They couldn’t help the poor people. They have to beg for donations to deal with insufficient healthcare equipments. They don’t understand the importance of food supply. They failed to track down the remaining 3,800 Tabligh members. They only know how to appear on TV and tell the people to stay at home as if money and food will drop from the sky.