Archive for November, 2020

Covid-19: 1,212 new cases reported, three fatalities bring death toll to 360 (updated)

Monday, November 30th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 1,212 new Covid-19 infections on Monday (Nov 30), with Selangor recording the most number of new cases with 402.

This is followed by Sabah with 326 cases and Negri Sembilan with 141 cases.

The number of recoveries is higher than new cases, with 2,112 patients being discharged Monday.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Malaysia)

In total, 54,759 patients have recovered from Covid-19 in the country and active cases have gone down to 10,578.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Worldwide)

Cumulatively, Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases have reached 65,697.

At a press conference, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were three new Covid-19 fatalities, taking the country’s death toll to 360.

The three deaths are cases in Alor Setar, Kedah, involving a 66-year-old man, a 58-year-old man in Labuan and a 22-year-old man in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Currently, 113 people are being treated at intensive care units, with 42 of them requiring ventilator support.



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Immigration officers arrest a big blow to country

Monday, November 30th, 2020
This Nov 27 pic shows three Immigration Dept officers being led by MACC officers at the Putrajaya Courts Complex. This Nov 27 pic shows three Immigration Dept officers being led by MACC officers at the Putrajaya Courts Complex.

Recent media reports on Ops Selat (a sting operation carried out by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in collaboration with the Immigration Department) and the 2020 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report on Malaysia by the US State Department (available online) leads me to conclude that our Immigration officers – responsible for keeping our borders safe – are complicit in the global crime of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

The media reports stated that MACC had busted a criminal syndicate involved in human trafficking and migrant smuggling with the arrest of 46 suspects, including 27 Immigration Department officers. They were arrested in several locations including Putrajaya, Selangor, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

The syndicate had been operating at our nation’s exit and entry points – KLIA, klia2, and the Sultan Ismail Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) complex building in Johor Baru. Informed sources told the media that the syndicate had two modus operandi:

First, syndicate agents would assist foreign workers who entered the country on social visas (but were working illegally in bars and massage centres) by collecting their passports and have them stamped (by immigration offices) to indicate that they had left the country after three months and had then re-entered legally.

Second, the syndicate members would arrange a “special counter” (manned by Immigration officers working in collusion with the syndiate) for migrants who had been blacklisted for immigration offences. They would be processed at these counters and be allowed entry.

By November 21, the number of suspects arrested had increased to 53 people, including 33 Immigration officers. According to a media report yesterday (29 November), the total number of suspects nabbed under Ops Selat is 65 people – comprising 39 Immigration officers, 17 agents and 9 members of the public.

In July 2020, two Immigration officers, including an assistant director, were among five people charged in court with multiple counts of migrant smuggling. They were accused of smuggling in eight Indonesian migrants at the Pasir Gudang ferry terminal on June 15, 2020. The charges were under section 26A of Act 670.

In January 2017, the then Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali told the media that a passport fee scam that cost the department more than RM1 million in Selangor alone was only small part of much larger corruption in the agency.

Human trafficking is a modern slavery, affecting over 40 million men, women, and children trapped in a web of forced labor, sexual exploitation, and coerced marriage, now the second most lucrative crime in the world, generating more than US$150 billion a year. About 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Malaysia is not only a country of destination, but also a country of origin and a transit country.

According to the 2020 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report for Malaysia, issued by the US State Department: “The Government of Malaysia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” although it is making “significant efforts to do so”. The government also “did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts” compared to the previous year (2019).

The TIP Report in its final paragraph, concludes: “Corrupt immigration officials facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes from brokers and smugglers at border crossings, including at airports. Some government officials profit from bribes and direct involvement in extortion from and exploitation of migrants.


Malaysia is now placed at Tier Two, The Watch List, for the third consecutive year – a position we cannot be proud of. If the situation does not improve soon, Malaysia may drop to the lowest ranking (Tier 3), with Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, Burundi, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela.

It leaves me wondering whether our Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (Act 670) has any bite at all. Under section 12 of the Act, the offence of trafficking in persons is punishable with the prison term of 15 years. If the offence is committed by means of threat, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of power, the penalty is 20 years imprisonment.

The irony is that Malaysia was aiming to reach the top spot (Tier 1) by 2020. Taking into account the arrests, it was perhaps mere wishful thinking.

By Salleh Buang.

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PM’s Dept budget passed through bloc vote

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Photo: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat today passed the budget for the Prime Minister’s Department through a bloc vote.

There were 105 ayes and 95 nays. Twenty 20 MPs did not vote. Another two – Liew Vui Keong (Batu Sapi) and Hasbullah Osman (Gerik) – have passed away. Their seats are still vacant.

Earlier, Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun had called for a voice vote which saw the Perikatan Nasional MPs clearly having a louder voice.

However, the opposition MPs called for a bloc vote with more than 15 of them – the minimum number required – standing up in a show of support.

Azhar announced the results after the votes were tallied in about 10 minutes.

Halfway through the voting process, opposition MPs stood up to object against Takiyuddin Hassan (PN-Kota Bharu) entering the hall while the votes were being counted.

The Prime Minister’s Department consist of five ministries – Law, Economy, Religious Affairs, Special Functions, and Sabah and Sarawak Affairs.

The MPs will now continue debating the allocations for the other ministries, before passage of the Supply Bill 2021 at committee stage.

Last week, the RM322 billion budget was passed through a voice vote at the policy stage after the opposition MPs failed to get 15 MPs to push for a bloc vote.

By: FMT.

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Govt expected to earn palm oil windfall profit levy of RM500 mln in 2021 – MPOB

Monday, November 30th, 2020

The government is expected to earn palm oil windfall profit levy of about RM500 million in 2021 if the price of crude palm oil (CPO) records between RM3,000-RM3,500 per tonne compared to the expectation of RM348 million a year this. – File photo

BANGI (Nov 30): The government is expected to earn palm oil windfall profit levy of about RM500 million in 2021 if the price of crude palm oil (CPO) records between RM3,000-RM3,500 per tonne compared to the expectation of RM348 million a year this.

Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) chairman Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub said the revenue collection was not impossible if the CPO price remained above RM3,000 per tonne level.

“The expected revenue of RM348 million for this year is an estimate based on increased CPO prices since June.

“We hope that with production and demand, as well as good weather conditions, it is not impossible that it (windfall profit levy) can reach about RM500 million next year while the country faces economic challenges,” he told a press conference here today.

In 2019, the windfall profit levy revenue amounted to RM256,000.

Ahmad Jazlan said India is projected to continue importing crude palm oil from Malaysia next year with a double-digit growth.

This is driven by India’s reduction of customs duty on crude palm oil to 27.5 per cent from 37.5 per cent on Nov 27, 2020.

For the period of January-October 2020, palm oil exports to India amounted to 1.97 million tonnes valued at RM5.15 billion.

Since June 2020, demand from India began to increase due to activities to increase stocks in the country and demand is beginning to recover following the relaxation of lockdown measures and gradual economic recovery.

On the MPOB Cess Order 2020, which is scheduled to take effect on Jan 1, 2021, he said the matter was still at the study and discussion stage.

“We decided to impose the Cess Order at the appropriate time, for example when palm oil is at its highest level over the past eight years.

“The cess collected (RM5.00 one-off) will be returned for the sustainability of the palm oil industry and for the commodity to remain competitive, not for MPOB savings,” he said.

Ahmad Jazlan said the revenue collected from the cess is actually not enough for the MPOB operations as a whole, as it needs to be distributed to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), which is a separate entity that conducts palm-related activities and campaigns.

The MPOB Cess Order 2020 set an additional payment of RM5.00 cess per tonne of CPO and crude palm kernel oil (CPKO) produced compared with the current total amount of RM14.00 cess per tonne of CPO produced.

by Bernama.

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Increase in number of smokers wanting to quit

Monday, November 30th, 2020
The government had spent RM2 million in 2018 and RM2.8 million in 2019 respectively to fund pharmacology costs to encourage people to quit smoking. - NSTP/File picThe government had spent RM2 million in 2018 and RM2.8 million in 2019 respectively to fund pharmacology costs to encourage people to quit smoking. – NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of smokers who wished to quit smoking increased more than two-fold throughout the Covid-19 pandemic period this year compared to last year.

This was reflected in the number of people who registered for mQuit – a free programme to encourage more smokers to kick the bad habit.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba told the Dewan Rakyat today that 3,442 smokers registered for the programme online at from Jan to Oct this year.

This, he said, was a significant increase compared to the 1,678 people who registered for the programme last year.

“Of the total number of people registered for the programme this year, 95 per cent or 3,254 people registered their interest for the programme throughout the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) that came into force on Mar 18,” he said.

Dr Adham was responding to an oral question by Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid bin Yusof Rawa (Pakatan Harapan – Parit Buntar) who asked the ministry to state the progress of smoking cessation programmes and the effectiveness of these programmes.

Prior to the implementation of mQuit, which is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between professional entities, non-govermental organisations and the private sector, Dr Adham said the government had spent RM2 million in 2018 and RM2.8 million in 2019 respectively to fund pharmacology costs to encourage people to quit smoking.

The initiatives which used Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Partial Agonist for Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor or Varenicline saw a reduction of participants due to the increase in the prices of the medications involved.

Dr Adham said this compelled the government to switch to implementing the mQuit programme.

The ministry, he said, is also hoping that the Finance Ministry would consider its request for all smoking cessation programmes to be funded using revenue collected from excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco.

He said greater allocation would help the ministry fund programmes which subsequently could help reduce the number of smokers in the country.

“At the moment, there are a total of 4.8 million smokers or 21 per cent of the country’s population.

“Nevertheless, the number of people who wished to quit smoking is also significant at 2.3 million.

“At the moment, only 22,000 people who enrolled into mQuit have successfully been treated,” he said.

By Nuradzimmah DaimAdib Povera.

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Address issue of crowded, confined accommodation of foreign workers to curb spread of Covid-19 — Health D-G

Monday, November 30th, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: The issue of crowded and confined accommodation of foreign workers needs to be tackled immediately to ensure that it does cause the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has said.

He said this was in line with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).

“Seeing how the issue of Covid-19 infection among foreign workers has become an important matter that needs to be addressed, the Ministry of Health (MoH) urges employers to play a bigger role in jointly tackling it.

“As such, the MoH welcomes the enforcement action under Act 446 by the Human Resources Ministry on employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the Act,” he said in a post on his official Facebook page yesterday.

He said there were several factors that contributed to the transmission of infectious diseases among workers, including accommodation, personal hygiene as well as the environment of the accommodation and workplaces.

He said the MoH had always taken a serious view of incidents regarding the rise in Covid-19 transmissions in workplaces as manpower, be it foreign or local, had always been a valuable asset for any company or organisation.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dr Noor Hisham spent some time to observe field activities for the Awan Baru Construction Site Cluster.

The cluster, involving the districts of Kepong and Cheras in Kuala Lumpur, was declared yesterday after Covid-19 cases were detected following the targeted screening of workers at a construction site in Bandar Baru Sentul.

He said as at 8pm on Nov 28, a total of 482 individuals had been screened, with 410 (85.1 per cent) of them testing positive.

“The Kepong Health Office carried out a risk assessment and close contact detection at the construction site and areas around the workplace on Nov 27.

“The construction site was closed under Section 18 (1) (f) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) on Nov 27 for the purpose of cleaning and disinfection,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

by Bernama.

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Preservation of life must come first

Monday, November 30th, 2020
A Health Ministry worker carrying out a swab test on a foreign worker on Saturday in Meru, Klang. Human lives must take precedence, and not compromised in the search for power and profits. -- NSTP/ASWADI ALIASA Health Ministry worker carrying out a swab test on a foreign worker on Saturday in Meru, Klang. Human lives must take precedence, and not compromised in the search for power and profits. — NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS

FOR most human beings, life is sacred. And it must come first in ensuring that humanity remains respected, dignified and sanctified. All lives matter. Period.

There can be no other way as we closely witness, almost daily for the last few months, events unfolding in the world’s most democratic nation. Ironically, then and even now, innocent lives are wantonly wasted on the political pedestal in the rush to secure power.

A sheer means to an end. Add to that lies, half-truths and fake news in a world made more uncertain by the coronavirus pandemic. We also see how social media is misused and abused to lend support by promoting hatred and racism as well as sexism.

So much so that many global companies launched a worldwide boycott to force change but with little consequence. Therein involves leaders who are disconnected from the reality on the ground when defying lessons brought out so clearly by the pandemic.
Overall, it is not only dehumanising but at once commercialises being human by putting the need for profits above the lives of fellow humans.

So, it is appalling to learn recently how businesses reap unbridled profits from the miseries of others as the pandemic heightened. The protection of life and well-being of workers are found wanting.

One such experience led to a closure of tens of the outlets involved, while reportedly thousands of workers are said to be severely affected at the facilities following a drastic rise in positive Covid-19 cases among them.

It is regrettable that greed seems to have blinded many despite the daily deaths reported at times in the thousands globally.

What with the onslaught of the so-called third waves, many more are affected. In the most advanced economy, hospitalisation is said to be at its peak. No amount of money and technology can give any assurances. It includes vaccines, a new variable that adds to the complexity of the situation.

If they are going to save the day, human lives must take precedence, and not be compromised in the search for power and profits. It is about the collective well-being of humanity. No one is to be left behind. Inclusive, equitable, just and sustainable is the reality of the future, post-pandemic.

This is what the pandemic is now telling so that we can be better prepared. Unfortunately, many have missed it, if not dismissed it blatantly due to selfish reasons or ignorance. Covid-19 has made the invisible, visible. Not in the tangible sense but intangibly — pointing to the values of cleanliness, openness, vigilance, integrity and discipline — spelt Covid.

Each of these is a vital value to break the spread of Covid-19, only if they are infused organically into politics and economics so that the invisible is also made more visible in both words and practices. This is the only way out of the pandemic, as a preparation for the post-pandemic era with a new set of norms.

Not limited to just three Cs and Ws, namely, avoiding crowds, close contact and confined spaces or the wearing of masks, observing safe physical distance, and washing your hands. We also need to add three Rs — be fully responsible in upholding that life is truly revered and respected in whatever we do.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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Asean-SAN will make science central to policymaking

Monday, November 30th, 2020
The national flags of the various Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries on display. -- File PixThe national flags of the various Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries on display. — File Pix

THROUGHOUT the Covid-19 crisis, governments worldwide have appropriately prioritised strong frontline pandemic response services, ensuring rapid access to help for those who contract the virus.

Months of isolation, physical distancing, limited social interaction and the wearing of face masks are all taking a toll yet to be fully realised. We await with concern the long-term personal and socio-economic effects of, for example, moving so many educational and business activities online.

Governments are scrambling to develop economic stimulus packages — wage subsidies, tax exemptions and even cash transfers. Combined with the reduction in economic growth, these will result in a massive debt increase, creating a different set of challenges for the future.

Meanwhile, the environment is often an afterthought. In fact, it should be a top priority.

According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Covid-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

The emergence of Covid-19 has been entirely driven by human activities. And it is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds, 850,000 of which could infect people.

According to lead author, Dr Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist who has spent years studying coronavirus transmission in China and Southeast Asia, emerging diseases such as swine flu, SARS, Ebola, and the Nipah virus (which devastated Malaysia in 1999) originate largely through land-use change and human encroachment on wildlife habitat.

Supported by 22 experts, the report says future pandemics “will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than Covid-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases”. They warn that escaping “the era of pandemics” is possible but “requires a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention”.

The report calls for “a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases; predict high-risk areas; evaluate the economic impact of potential pandemics and to highlight research gaps”.

Such a council could also coordinate the design of a global monitoring framework and facilitate the setting of mutually agreed international goals or targets, with clear benefits for people, animals and the environment.

The prototype of such a council may have already been established. By coincidence it was announced last week that an international task force under the ambit of The Lancet Covid-19 Commission was being formed. It is to be led by Daszak and includes Academy of Sciences Malaysia’s senior fellow, Prof Lam Sai Kit — a leader in emerging viral infections, who was also central to the discovery of the Nipah virus.

Indeed, could there be a more dramatic illustration of the importance of evidence-informed policymaking than the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, estimated to result in a global economic blow of up to US$16 trillion by the end of next year?

It is a privilege, therefore, to announce that the International Network for Government Science Advice (Ingsa) is launching a new structure this week to facilitate senior-level scientific information sharing and collaboration within the Asean region.

The Asean Science Advice Network (Asean-SAN) will structure and strengthen direct evidence-to-policymaking pathways, particularly in areas related to the world’s 17 United Nations-brokered Sustainable Development Goals.

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are the five initial Asean-SAN members, which we hope to expand to all 10 Asean member states.

Ingsa was founded six years ago by some of the world’s leading academics and practitioners in the emerging field of science advice to government. Malaysia and over 40 other countries from every world region, together with representatives of key international organisations, proudly convened to inaugurate Ingsa in 2014 under the chairmanship of Sir Peter Gluckman, the then science adviser to New Zealand’s prime minister.

Ingsa has proven to be a valuable platform promoting collaborative exchanges on policy, capacity building and research. Ingsa organises workshops and conferences while developing a growing catalogue of tools and guidance.

By enhancing the global science-policy interface, the network facilitates policy formation informed by science at every government level from sub-national to national and international.

Asean-SAN will focus on how scientific evidence is being used in Covid-19-related policymaking, for example, in areas of health, socioeconomics and the environment, and in the deployment of pandemic recovery efforts to meet the important goal of “building back better” and shaping a “new normal”.

The writer is a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, and the Founding Chairman of AseanSAN. He was also the founding Chair of IPBES.

By Zakri Abdul Hamid.

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Four new Covid-19 clusters emerge in KL, KK, Klang and Kelantan

Monday, November 30th, 2020
The number of active clusters nationwide now stands at 183. Bernama pic.The number of active clusters nationwide now stands at 183. Bernama pic.

KUALA LUMPUR: Four new Covid-19 clusters were detected nationwide today, as the number of positive cases continues to climb.

The new clusters are the Sungai Mulia construction site cluster in Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur; the Batu Lima cluster in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; the Yayasan cluster in Klang, Selangor; and the Hilir cluster involving Kota Baru, Tumpat, Bachok and Pasir Puteh in Kelantan.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said as of today, 124 people linked to the Sungai Mulia construction site cluster have been screened, with 23 testing Covid-19 positive.

“Early cases in this cluster were reported on Nov 29 as a result of workplace screening at a construction site,” he said in a statement today.

As for the Batu Lima cluster, he said the index case (Case-50,994) was confirmed positive on Nov 19 following a screening of symptomatic individuals.

“As of today, 118 people have been screened, with 49 testing positive.”

On the Yayasan cluster, he said its index case (Case 52,340) was detected positive on Nov 20 following a symptomatic individual screening.

“As of Nov 29, 190 people have been screened, of which 21 were confirmed positive.”

For the Hilir cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said the index case (Case 58,845) was confirmed positive on Nov 24 following the screening of symptomatic individuals.

“A total of 975 people connected to this cluster have been screened to date, with 21 testing Covid-19 positive.”

Dr Noor Hisham noted that as of Nov 29, a total of 359 clusters have been registered since the epidemic began, including the four new clusters reported today.

“The total number of clusters that have ended is 176, including the Megah cluster that ended today.

“This brings the total number of active clusters monitored to 183. Of that number, 49 clusters reported an increase in cases (today).

“The clusters that reported the highest increases in new cases today were the Awan Baru construction site cluster (367 cases), the Bintang cluster (76 cases) and the Bayam cluster (52 cases),” he added.

By Tharanya Arumugam.

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‘Half of Malaysia’s SMEs not digitally ready’

Monday, November 30th, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: Digital transformation remains a challenge for most Malaysian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee.

According to Siemens Malaysia’s findings, 50 per cent of SMEs are not prepared to adopt the new normal of working from home as they are lagging in terms of infrastructure and the system to enable their staff to do so.

Yee said Covid-19 had pushed SMEs to adopt digitalisation to ease the impact of the pandemic on business operations to ensure continuity and survival.

“The pandemic is forcing most SMEs to adopt to digital business requirements for their operations and during the Movement Control Order.

“There are three factors hindering SMEs to move their businesses digitally — the misconception of high cost when adopting technology, lack of understanding of digital technology, as well as shortage of digital talent in the workforce,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee. -- File Pix

Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee. — File Pix

Therefore, Siemens, with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, has been conducting the Digital Transformation Acceleration Programme. The company has been appointed as digital transformation labs partner to assist Malaysian companies with digital transformation plans.

Yee said under the programme, Siemens was helping companies identify their business plans using specific methodologies to brainstorm on new ideas, design new business models, develop new products and technology designs, and pilot the implementation plan.

He said when Siemens started assessing the digital readiness of companies, it found that SMEs were unwilling to invest for digital purposes.

Yee said it was important for Siemens, under the programme, to educate and advise SMEs about gains they could achieve through digital transformation.

“SMEs have to start to think what their journey entails or what their goals are to be competitive in the market.”

By Farah Adilla.

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