Archive for December, 2020

Covid-19: Record high of 2,525 cases on New Year’s Eve, eight deaths

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia saw a record number of Covid-19 cases in a single day on Thursday (Dec 31) with 2,525 cases, says the Health Ministry

This brought the total cumulative number of infections in the country to 113,010, with 23,598 of them being active.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Malaysia)

The nation also saw eight new deaths.

“1,481 overnight recovery cases take total recoveries to 88,941 cases, five new clusters identified,” said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic).

He said Selangor recorded the highest number of cases with 1,205 or 47.7% of the entire daily cases on Thursday, followed by Sabah (299) and Melaka (239).

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Worldwide)

From the figure, there were 13 import cases whereas infections that happened in the country stood at 2,512 cases, he said in a press statement.

Dr Noor Hisham also said there are 131 positive cases that are being treated at the intensive care unit (ICU), where 60 of them required ventilator support.

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Kota Kinabalu’s first woman mayor ready to face challenges

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Outgoing Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman (left) presenting a mace as a symbol of handing over duties to incoming mayor Noorliza Awang Alip, during the ceremony at  Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK). -NSTP/MOHD ADAM ARININOutgoing Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman (left) presenting a mace as a symbol of handing over duties to incoming mayor Noorliza Awang Alip, during the ceremony at Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK). -NSTP/MOHD ADAM ARININ

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s first woman mayor has pledged to work as a team with Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) staff in order to meet the challenges of running the state capital.

Noorliza Awang Alip, 55, who will effectively take over from Datuk Nordin Siman as Kota Kinabalu mayor tomorrow, acknowledged that there is pressure with being appointed to the position.

“I was thinking whether I could do it as my predecessors did great jobs.

“But again, I have been doing this for so long. I’ve been part of DBKK since 1996 and I have received support from many,” said the DBKK director-general who began her career as the council’s assistant secretary.

She was speaking to the press after the mayorship handover ceremony. Nordin served as the KK mayor for two years.

Also present were state Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Yakub Khan, state secretary Datuk Seri Safar Untong and Datuk Abidin Madingkir, who Assistant Minister to the Sabah Chief Minister.

Noorliza, who will become the state capital’s sixth mayor, said DBKK is a dynamic organisation that works towards meeting the expectations of the city folk.

“It is a big challenge, given the city’s 580,000 population and coverage an area of 360 square kilometres.

“The needs and aspirations are always changing. DBKK aspires to work in tandem with the expectations of the people,” she said

Nordin, meanwhile, described his successor as an experienced, knowledgeable, disciplined and dedicated leader.

“I am confident that Noorliza Awang Alip is capable of doing even better as the mayor of Kota Kinabalu.

“I urge all DBKK officers and staff to lend her their support.”

By Olivia Miwil

King, Queen express hope Covid-19 will be defeated in 2021

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Pic source: Facebook/IstanaNegaraOfficialPic source: Facebook/IstanaNegaraOfficial

KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, and the Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, have expressed their hope that the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine can flatten the pandemic curve and break the virus’ transmission in Malaysia.

Comptroller of the Royal Household for Istana Negara Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah also hope that the people will remain patient and resolute in facing the Covid-19 pandemic; and are praying for the country’s recovery.

“Their Majesties also take this opportunity to express their gratitude to the Almighty who has bestowed Malaysia with peace and unity even though, throughout the year 2020, the country we love was hit by various tests,” he said in a statement, today.

Extending 2021 New Year greetings to all Malaysians, Their Majesties advised the people to always ensure the safety and health of themselves and their families by complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government.

by Bernama.

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Battle against Covid-19 is not over – Dr Noor Hisham

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah poses with the book titled “The Fight Against Uncertainty : Hospital Services Journey In Combating Covid-19” after its launching today. – Bernama photo

PUTERJAYA (Dec 31): The war to curb the Covid-19 pandemic is not over, and the battle is getting tougher as it requires the integration of the people and Health Ministry (MOH) to fight the pandemic effectively.

Health director-general, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the efforts of MOH in containing Covid-19 transmission in the country would continue and public health facilities have so far been able to take on the pandemic.

He was speaking at the launch of a coffee book titled “The Fight Against Uncertainty : Hospital Services Journey In Combating Covid-19”, which was conducted virtually here today.

While wishing all Malaysians a happy new year, Dr Noor Hisham again reminded the people to comply with the standard operating procedure (SOP) such as observing physical distancing, wearing face mask, washing hands frequently and avoiding crowded places while gathering with the family to welcome the new year.

“If possible, do not gather, and if need be, there should not be more than 10 persons and adhere to MOH SOP,” he said in the ceremony which was also attended by Health deputy director-general (Medical), Datuk Dr Rohaizat Yon.

Dr Noor Hisham also thanked all MOH staff, frontliners as well as media personnel for jointly combating Covid-19 for one year.

“The battle is a mentally and physically tiring for MOH staff and the people. We have not won and hope in 2021 we could break Covid-19 infection chain in the country with the cooperation of the people,” he said.

On the coffee table book, Dr Noor Hisham said it is a meaningful publication as it recounts the journey of the frontliners in fighting the disease over the year which could be shared with the future generation.

Published by the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) Hospital Service, Medical Programme, the 158-page book is compilation of articles and photographs on the battle against Covid-19 pandemic thus far.

A total of 350 copies were printed with contribution from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and they would be distributed to MOH, state health directors as well as other ministries and agencies, universities and the Association of Private Hospital of Malaysia (APHM).

Members of the public can read the coffee table book by surfing MOH official website.

by Bernama.

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Stay home to stay safe, health experts urge M’sians

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
PETALING JAYA: Health experts say the current Covid-19 situation in the country is not favourable for social gatherings even for welcoming the New Year.

“Current active cases have exceeded 21,000 and daily numbers are close to 2,000. We should not expose ourselves to any risk of infection, ” said Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman.

“We should also not strain our healthcare system further.”

The conditional movement control order (MCO) was eased for the sake of the country’s economy, and not for engaging in big social crowds or family gatherings, said Dr Malina.

She advised the public to continue to comply with SOP, as the vaccine was yet to be made available locally.

“Hopefully the vaccine will reach our country soon. Singapore has started the vaccination for their frontliners today (yesterday) and their cases are much lower compared to us, we have to be more consistent and vigilant against Covid-19.

“Or we can expect early next year to be markedly different from our neighbouring country, ” she said.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said for the next few weeks, it was important to do two things.

“First, avoid being in congested and confined areas for prolonged durations. It may be hard at times to maintain the minimum 1m physical distancing but we have to.

“Second, there may be a need to maintain a social circle for long-term emotional and psychosocial support, but avoid a large bubble, and restrict mixing across networks, ” he said.

For New Year celebrations, Dr Sanjay suggested that the public usher in the New Year by staying at home.

Large gatherings, if any, should be held in big, open spaces while practising physical distancing, he said, adding that the location should have sufficient amenities to promote good sanitation and hygiene.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah concurred that celebrations should be held in open areas with good ventilation to reduce the probability of getting infected.

Dr Raj said air conditioned and closed spaces without good ventilation posed a risk to people.

“Malaysians can celebrate in open areas by observing the SOP laid out by the Health Ministry. Use your face mask, observe social distancing, and wash and sanitise your hands regularly, ” he said.

Going into the new year, Dr Raj believed there would not be “total freedom”.

“There will still be restrictions for the whole of next year. Hopefully, the vaccine can ease that for us. However, let’s remain positive and hope for the best, ” he said.

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Singapore begins coronavirus vaccination campaign

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
This handout photo by Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information shows the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine being given to senior staff nurse Sarah Lim (R) as Singapore began its vaccination exercise with the first batch of healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). -- MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION/ AFPThis handout photo by Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information shows the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine being given to senior staff nurse Sarah Lim (R) as Singapore began its vaccination exercise with the first batch of healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). — MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION/ AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore began a coronavirus vaccination campaign Wednesday with a nurse receiving the first jab, making it among the first Asian nations to roll out inoculations.

The city-state, which has suffered a mild outbreak, became the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month, and its programme kicked off with healthcare workers.

Nurse Sarah Lim, 46, whose work includes screening suspected Covid-19 patients, was the first to be immunised, the health ministry said.

“I feel grateful and thankful for being the first to be vaccinated,” the nurse from the national centre for infectious diseases was cited as saying by the Straits Times newspaper.

More than 30 staff from the centre are receiving the first dose of the two-shot vaccine Wednesday, and will get the second next month.

After healthcare workers, the city-state will vaccinate the elderly, and then the rest of the population.

The government expects to have enough vaccines for all 5.7 million people in the city by the third quarter of 2021, with the voluntary vaccine free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.

Other countries that have started immunisations include Britain, EU nations, and the United States, although most Asian nations are yet to begin.

In China, where the virus emerged, at least one million people have already received jabs after vaccine candidates were approved for emergency use, although they have so far been limited to priority groups such as state employees.

The inoculations are yet to receive official approval.

Vaccinations have been given in limited numbers in other parts of the region, including to members of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team, and to US troops stationed in South Korea.

Singapore has recorded about 58,000 infections, mostly among low-paid migrant workers living in crowded dormitories, and just 29 deaths.

by – AFP

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New ways to fete New Year 2021

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR : Among the most awaited moments by Malaysians with only one more day to go before the New Year 2021, especially city dwellers, are the massive celebrations and fireworks displays in public areas such as Dataran Merdeka, KLCC compound and Dataran Putrajaya.

But this year, the still rampant COVID-19 pandemic had stunted plans to hold large-scale New Year’s Eve celebration, let alone such large-scale assembly activities which were not allowed by the government.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Monday stressed that events or activities via gatherings were still prohibited as stipulated due to difficulty in controlling physical distancing.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Prasarana Malaysia Berhad told Bernama that the bus and rail transit  network service hours would not be extended until early in the morning as usual on Jan 1.

Therefore, in order not to disappoint the public celebrating the year 2021, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) came up with its difference this year by holding the 2021 New Threshold Virtual Concert.

DBKL, through its official website, said the COVID-19 pandemic attack forced it to switch to new methods in the implementation of various aspects of work.

“Not an exception is the DBKL’s Kuala Lumpur Orchestra (OKL), which all these while has been proudly providing live entertainment on stage as well as being the musical backbone for hundreds of celebrities performing since 1988.

“Now OKL will continue to play for city residents but virtually through online broadcasts in conjunction with the 2021 New Threshold Virtual Concert,” it said.

The virtual concert would be posted on DBKL’s official Facebook and Bapakku.FM Facebook on Dec 31, 10 pm with the theme ‘City Folks Continue to Presevere’ as an analogy to the COVID-19 situation that befell the country and the world.

Meanwhile, it is understood that only Sarawak would be organising a new year celebration event at the Kuching Indoor Stadium by following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) set and only 1,000 invited guests would be allowed to attend.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was reported to have said that the organisation of the event had been approved by the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN), but the committee would always be vigilant taking into account every SOP outlined.

However, there would be many Malaysians who would prefer to spend time at home or take their families on outings while complying with the SOP which would simultaneously be seen as complying with government directives that prohibited New Year celebrations in large gatherings.

Najihah Akhmal Madiki, 24, who lived in Shah Alam, planned to go on holiday to Pangkor Island with her family compared to last year’s celebration which held en masse at Dataran Putrajaya.

“For the new year celebration this time, my family and I plan to stay at a hotel and bring our own food while picnicking on the beach to avoid congestion at restaurants there,” she said when contacted today.

A food entrepreneur in Perak, Mohammad Nasharuddin Md Noor, 24, said he and his family would only fete the new year by having meal events at home, just like last year’s celebration.

by Bernama.

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280 new cases, four deaths in Sabah

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah recorded four Covid-19 deaths along with 280 new cases today, said State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

“The four deaths were recorded in Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Lahad Datu,” he said in a statement today.

Masidi, who is also the state’s official Covid-19 spokesperson, said Lahad Datu recorded the highest number of cases with 53 cases followed by Penampang (51) and Kota Kinabalu (41).

Beluran was reclassified from orange zone to yellow zone while Keningau was reclassified from orange zone to red zone.

“Tambunan was reclassified from yellow zone to orange zone,” added Masidi.

No new cluster was detected, while a total of 217 Covid-19 patients in Sabah recovered from the virus today.

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Challenges that have shaped 2020

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
A boat sails in front of the Opera House in Sydney on December 30, 2020, as authorities work to suppress a growing cluster of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Australia's most populous city. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)A boat sails in front of the Opera House in Sydney on December 30, 2020, as authorities work to suppress a growing cluster of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Australia’s most populous city. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

AS we prepare to look back on 2020, it is interesting to compare and contrast the experiences of different countries.  The two countries that I know, and think about the most, are Malaysia and Australia.

In Australia, this year started badly — and then it got worse.

As the most destructive fires in our history swept through the country, we learned new respect for those we called our “frontline heroes”. At that point, the term was used to describe our firefighters, rather than health workers.

We put our faith in disaster management experts and in each other. Communities pulled together. This turned out to be good practice for what was to follow.

We were not forgotten by our friends either. The Malaysian government offered assistance, as did Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. In the end, the coming of rains meant we didn’t need to call on Malaysia’s help. But, the offer was there and was deeply appreciated.

When Covid-19 hit us, Australia and Malaysia both found themselves in crisis (for us, it felt as if one crisis had been replaced by another, with hardly a break).  Both governments took early steps to close borders, secure personal protective equipment and begin testing.

Both countries have effective public health systems and competent administrations. As a consequence, Australia and Malaysia have each done well in managing the pandemic, although not without mishaps along the way.

In fact, our trajectories have been so similar that, by my calculations, our infection curves have crossed each other no fewer than 14 times during the course of this year!

I will never stop thanking Malaysia for keeping me and my family, my staff, and all Australians in Malaysia healthy and safe. While Covid-19 was the defining challenge of 2020, there have been others.

In a democracy, no political party or government’s fortunes are ever guaranteed. In past years, Australian politics has seen sudden leadership changes and even minority governments.  But, of late, we have settled into a more predictable pattern.

As an Australian diplomat, I am a neutral, but very interested, observer of Malaysian politics. And I’ve come to appreciate that Malaysians tend to follow politics with the same sort of passion that Australians reserve for sport.

Diplomats from countries whose leaders are directly elected (or unelected) must have scratched their heads at the dramatic developments in February this year. As a parliamentary democracy ourselves, we thought we understood a little better what was going on. But, I am always ready to be educated and/or corrected about Malaysian politics!

It is in the nature of democracy to be often untidy, and natural sometimes to crave political stability. But, in my opinion, even the messiest of democracies beats a well-ordered and rigid authoritarianism, because democracies are well placed to learn and change.

One of the “gifts” of 2020 is that we have had the chance to know ourselves better. The lockdowns have tended to reveal our weaknesses but also our strengths. I have been struck by the patience and good humour with which Malaysians have endured the hardships of this year.

In Australia, too, people have risen to the challenges. We’ve learned to work together in clever new ways, and some of these we won’t forget. We’ve been reminded that our most valuable assets are our people.

In a similar way, Covid-19 has put a mirror up to our societies. It has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on how we treat those among us who have the least power. And taught us that their hardship can also be a source of vulnerability to us.

Not all the challenges in 2020 came from within. Many of the rules and norms governing international behaviour have come under pressure in recent times. In our own region, territorial, maritime, digital and economic sovereignty are now routinely tested. Malaysia and Australia have each stood up to these challenges, as we must. And, as friends do, we exchange information and ideas as we go forward.

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a tough year. And few of us will be sorry to see it pass. But I can’t help thinking that we may end up look back on this period in a kinder way than we do now.

Maybe it’s been the support I’ve received from my friends and colleagues. Maybe it was His Majesty the King’s Christmas message of peace and unity. But, for whatever reason, I find myself ending this strange year in a slightly more optimistic mood than when it started. I hope others feel the same. Happy New Year Malaysia and best wishes for 2021!

By Andrew Goledzinowski.

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A global chance to build back better

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Governments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. - NSTP/FATHIL ASRIGovernments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. – NSTP/FATHIL ASRI

SO, a year like no other has finally drawn to a close. A year when most of us were home-bound and earth-bound, as closed borders everywhere meant we were grounded; aeroplanes being likewise mostly grounded, laying waste to a peripatetic lifestyle most of us had hitherto taken for granted before 2020 dawned.

The advent of vaccines against the Covid-19 virus raises high hopes that 2021 will be better for almost everyone on Planet Earth. Certainly, a path towards pre-pandemic normalcy can finally be sketched out.

During the year-end holiday season, it is heartening to witness here in Kuching, for example, how the malls, restaurants and coffee shops are packing in the crowds again, offering encouraging signs that resilient people everywhere will bounce back with a pent-up vengeance as soon as circumstances allow.

Governments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. Still, there is no denying the huge toll the pandemic has extracted, both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.

Seems like everywhere one sees in town, amidst shops showing an early sign of returning vitality, for-rent notices pockmarking boarded-up ones nearby. A local real-estate investor friend worries aloud that existing businesses or new ones are not biting even with attractive rental offers just yet. He worries that this will linger for as long as Sarawak remained closed even to out-of-state domestic travellers.

Uncertainty remains the order of the day. A Kuala Lumpur-based university student who spent most of 2020 taking lessons online in Kuching while working on the side in a coffee shop is suddenly unsure again of his immediate plans now that movement-control measures in place in the federal capital have been extended for a further two weeks.

Another big uncertainty carried over into this new year is political. A state election in Sarawak, constitutionally due by the middle of the year, has been held in abeyance for the time being. Will it be timed together with a snap general election, given the continuing volatility of the national political scene?

Even after a widely anticipated general polls, will the country ever revert again to the long-accustomed path of a government with a secure majority affording us political stability for a full five years of each election cycle? Or are we condemned to fractious and highly malleable governing majorities with all the governance uncertainties ensuing, going forward?

Internationally, will a newly elected American president usher in much-welcome global leadership once again or will we witness a continuation of Sino-American rivalry that, if it exacerbates, will have nations in this region in particular being put in the extremely uneasy and uncomfortable position of having to choose sides?

All told, the havoc to our normal lives caused by the pandemic may have some redeeming features we may sorely miss with any return to “normalcy”. As normal in-class schooling was noted largely for its absence in 2020 and as organisations instituted work-from-home arrangements, our usual traffic-clogged urban roads took a breather. Driving through smooth-flowing traffic may be a luxury we will soon miss.

As our collective carbon footprint shrank drastically with most airliners the world over grounded, Planet Earth must have breathed a lot easier too in 2020. That surely must have had an appreciable impact in mitigation against an otherwise headlong march towards climate-change disaster.

Every cloud supposedly has a silver lining and one as ominous as that formed by this pandemic ought to have several. As some businesses, industries and indeed even lifestyle choices die away, they will surely trigger creative destruction of the sort that encourages new lifestyles and activities in its place. Human ingenuity will soon kick in to bring in its wake new products and services to cater to these new lifestyles and activities.

That is how renewal happens. Crises and silver linings create new opportunities. Dare we hope that a greener and more sustainable earth will become likelier?

Let 2021 be the new beginning so the world can collectively build back better.

By John Teo.

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