Covid-19: 1,741 new cases, seven fatalities bring death toll to 501

January 4th, 2021
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 1,741 more Covid-19 infections on Monday (Jan 4), taking the country’s total of confirmed cases to 120,818.

Seven people also died due to the coronavirus, raising Malaysia’s Covid-19 death toll to 501.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Malaysia)

The country also discharged 1,010 Covid-19 patients, which means 98,228 people have recovered.

The number of people with active Covid-19 infections in Malaysia has gone up to 22,089.

Currently, 122 patients are in intensive care, with 53 requiring ventilator support.

At a press conference, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said eight of Monday’s cases were imported infections, while the rest were local transmissions.

Dr Noor Hisham said Selangor recorded the highest increase of the day out of all states with 687 new cases, or 39.5% of the country’s total.

The state is followed by Sabah with 303 or 17.4% of cases, and Johor with 295 cases (16.9%).

There are 32 new cases reported from prison and detention centre clusters, which is about 1.8% of Monday’s tally.

The numbers of new local cases in the remaining states are as follows: Kuala Lumpur (150 cases), Negri Sembilan (56), Penang (55), Kelantan (50), Kedah (45), Perak (34), Melaka (34), Pahang (12), Sarawak (8), Putrajaya (6), Terengganu (4), Labuan (1) and Perlis (1).

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Worldwide)

On the seven deaths on Monday, Dr Noor Hisham said three were in Sabah, two in Johor and one each in Selangor and Pahang.

All of the deceased are Malaysians, aged between 45 and 83.


Ringgit ends higher against US dollar on 2021’s first trading day

January 4th, 2021
At 6 pm, the local currency rose to 4.0040/0090 versus the greenback from last Thursday's close of 4.0200/0250. NST pix by Amran Hamid.At 6 pm, the local currency rose to 4.0040/0090 versus the greenback from last Thursday’s close of 4.0200/0250. NST pix by Amran Hamid.

KUALA LUMPUR: The ringgit ended higher against the US dollar on the first trading day of the year in line with Asia’s emerging currencies, as buying interest continued from last week on optimism over global growth recovery in 2021 amid vaccine rollout.

At 6 pm, the local currency rose to 4.0040/0090 versus the greenback from last Thursday’s close of 4.0200/0250.

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the US dollar weakness and firm Brent crude oil price, which hovered close to US$53 per barrel, had been the main underpinning factors for the ringgit’s appreciation.

“The risk-on mode has been prevalent. The US Dollar Index (DXY) has skidded further to 89.548 points today while other currencies such as the Japanese yen, euro and Aussie dollar have all been rising.

“Going forward, data on the US Institute of Supply Management’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index and the nonfarm payroll will be closely watched to gauge the strength of the US economy in December,” he told Bernama.

He noted the decision by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) on the oil production quota would also be on investors’ radar this week.

“The current support level is located at RM3.9939,” he said.

The ringgit was traded mostly higher against other major currencies, except the Singapore dollar.

It appreciated vis-a-vis the Japanese yen to 3.8968/0021 from 3.9018/9078 last Thursday, rose versus the euro to 4.9213/9291 from 4.9358/9427, and strengthened against the British pound to 5.4743/4827 from 5.4905/4977 previously.

However, the local note slipped against the Singapore dollar to 3.0402/0450 from 3.0395/0444 last Thursday

By Bernama.

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Another pothole crash kills food delivery rider

January 4th, 2021

PJ district police chief Assistant Commissioner Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal says a food delivery rider died after losing control of his motorcycle when it hit a pothole near a road shoulder at Jalan PJU 7/2 today. - NSTP file pic

PJ district police chief Assistant Commissioner Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal says a food delivery rider died after losing control of his motorcycle when it hit a pothole near a road shoulder at Jalan PJU 7/2 today. – NSTP file pic

PETALING JAYA: A day after a 75-year-old motorcyclist was killed when he crashed into a pothole, another similar tragedy struck today killing a food delivery rider.

The 31-year-old food delivery rider lost control of his motorcycle when it hit a pothole near a road shoulder at Jalan PJU 7/2 here.

District police chief Assistant Commissioner Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal said the incident happened about 1.15pm when the victim was on his way to deliver food.

“The victim from Kampung Cempaka was declared dead at the scene due to serious injuries,” he said in a statement.

Nik Ezanee said the body was sent to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre for post-mortem, which would be conducted after authorities received the victim’s Covid-19 test result.

“The incident is being investigated under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 (for causing death by reckless or dangerous driving),” he added.

On Sunday, 75-year-old Ho Yan Fee, who was riding from Taman Connaught to Mid Valley, was killed when his motorcycle hit a pothole about 7.30am.

Ho was said to be coming from the direction of Pandan Perdana and plying through the middle lane of a three-lane stretch when he crashed into the pothole.

The impact had thrown Ho off his motorcycle, and he landed about 30 metres away. This had happened less than a week after a minister was injured after falling into a pothole in a cyling accident in Banting,

Following the Dec 31 road mishap involving the minister, the Works Ministry, through the Public Works Department (PWD), was reported had promised to repair potholes within 24 hours, as it reintroduced the “Aku Janji Zero Potholes” campaign.

In a statement, the ministry said the previous “Aku Janji Zero Potholes” campaign ran from 2016 to 2018 and it was reintroduced recently following the incident where Science and Technology Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was injured while cycling at Jalan Kampung Sri Cheeding in Banting.

Under this campaign, pothole repairs will be done within 24 hours of discovery or complaint, while permanent repairs will be done in three days as stated in the Federal Road Maintenance contract.

The statement defined pothole damage for any pothole with diameter of 200 to 1,000 milimetres (mm).

Sabah lauds plan to list Kaamatan, Gawai festivals under Cuti-Cuti Malaysia calendar

January 4th, 2021

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah welcomes a proposal to include the Kaamatan and Gawai harvest festival celebrations under the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia programme calendar.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin (pic) said the listing of the harvest festival celebrations (Kaamatan in Sabah and Gawai in Sarawak) as part of Cuti-Cuti Malaysia would definitely bring in more tourists.

Jafry said that it would give an opportunity for people to consider holidays in Sabah during the harvest festivities while also give them an opportunity to observe Sabah’s multi-ethnic people and culture.

He believed that the move would also help in preserving the culture and customs of the people while supporting government’s efforts to drive the tourism industry especially once the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

The Kaamatan Festival, also known as the Harvest Festival, is a month long celebration of the ethnic Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus communities in Sabah that begins in May and culminates on May 31. Gawai is celebrated on June1.

In Sabah, various cultural events are held including singing competitions called Sugandoi, crowning of the “Unduk Ngadau” (Beauty Queen), traditional sports as well other arts and handicraft exhibition to mark thanksgiving for a good harvest.

“I am confident that Kaamatan is not just a cultural festival, but also an important product in attracting tourists at home and abroad, as well as further strengthen Sabah’s position as a tourism hub”.

Apart from being a tourism product, this festival would be a platform in fostering unity not only for the community in Sabah but also the people throughout Malaysia, he said.

He was responding to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri that her ministry had made recommendation that the Kaamatan and Gawai Festival holidays be included as part Cuti-Cuti Malaysia programme.


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Future of newspapers depends on whether social media can be checked

January 4th, 2021
As eyeballs shift en masse to such social media outfits, so follow the advertisers, leaving newspapers blindsided from their bread-and-butter twins: circulation and advertising. - NSTP file picAs eyeballs shift en masse to such social media outfits, so follow the advertisers, leaving newspapers blindsided from their bread-and-butter twins: circulation and advertising. – NSTP file pic

THE New Sabah Times, the storied Sabah daily whence the state’s first chief minister, the late Tun Fuad Stephens, rose to political prominence, is no more. It ceased publication on the last day of 2020, citing a precipitous drop in readership circulation and advertising revenue. This sad tale has become increasingly a familiar one.

It is not the first mass-circulation daily newspaper in Malaysia to have folded and neither will it likely be the last. Journalism in print form seems to be in an existential crisis, not just in this country, but globally.

Despite most still existing newspapers making the conscious decision to migrate to digital editions (some becoming available exclusively online), it has become clearer by the day that the news business, in print form most especially, is in long-term recession.

If, as most people living in democratic countries think so, the so-called Fourth Estate is regarded as one of the vital pillars of healthy public discourse required of any vibrant democracy, then the implications of its recession are dire indeed. Can anything be done to arrest this alarming decline?

We must, of course, start by delving into the causes of the newspaper fading into feared long-term extinction. The most proximate cause is probably that our hectic modern lifestyle has led to individuals with very short attention spans. This, in turn, exacerbates the downward trend in the reading habit.

If growing numbers, especially among our young, are allergic to books, they are likewise finding wordy news articles and analyses found in newspapers hard to swallow.

The public space has, for quite some time now, been inundated by mere soundbites over the radio or television and, more recently, by short messages going viral over social media.

Social media behemoths, such as Facebook and Google, have tapped massively into these social trends by becoming so-called news aggregators, not so much producing their own news content as poaching morsels of news from established news providers, such as traditional newspapers.

As eyeballs shift en masse to such social media outfits, so follow the advertisers, leaving newspapers blindsided from their bread-and-butter twins: circulation and advertising.

Such competition has come fast and furious. One must also ask if it is even fair competition. It costs almost next to nothing to be news aggregators in social media and yet they are the ones reaping the lion’s share of advertising revenue now.

Meanwhile, are newspapers increasingly expected to be providing a supposedly vital democratic function for nothing? Who is going to pay for all the reporters out collecting and writing news stories and the news editors turning those news stories into publicly digestible print copy?

The Western world — and increasingly much of the rest of the world as well — has now come around to the realisation that social media giants, if left unchecked, may in time work against the very foundations upon which democratic societies are based.

The deleterious effects and fearsome power of social media have been brought into sharp relief by the political phenomenon that is United States President Donald Trump.

He has made it a habit to disseminate plainly false or so-called alternative facts and attempt to turn conspiracy theories respectable among his legion of adoring and unquestioning supporters via something as humble as his personal Twitter account.

It points to the ominously dangerous possibilities if unfiltered social media become widely abused, even by political leaders.

Quite how social media can be brought to heel is still being extensively debated. It is a debate that is both timely and essential. Are they to be strictly little more than a modern tool of communication or should they become part and parcel of the Fourth Estate, even replacing traditional media such as newspapers altogether over time?

These are all tough questions that demand urgent answers. Ultimately, such answers may decide if newspapers as we know them today really have any long-term future.

by John Teo.

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Ungku Aziz: A man ahead of his time

January 4th, 2021
Royal Professor Ungku Aziz. -Royal Professor Ungku Aziz. -

MUCH has already been celebrated about the impact, contributions and legacy of Allahyarham Royal Professor Ungku Aziz in honour of the memory of one of Malaysia’s greatest sons.

However, this writer feels there is more to be said especially in relation to what could have truly made him such a visionary and a rarefied personality in Malaysia’s modern history, such that we would be able to build on his legacy in a more comprehensive manner.

Although Ungku Aziz’s academic inquiry can be classified to some extent in the “development economics” category, much of his concerns, writings and ideas appears to go beyond the discipline of modern economics and reflects a broader conception of development that regards religion, ethics, culture, history, and language as important considerations for development.

If we scrutinise Ungku Aziz’s early life, readings and milieu, the facts reveal that Ungku Aziz’s vision of development and thinking in general must have been shaped by the various personal and intellectual exposures throughout his life – starting with the basic religious awareness imparted by his father, who, according to an account documented by Asmah Hj Omar, advised his son to hold on to his prayers and perform the requirements of Islam.

In a later interview, he regarded Al-Ghazali (d. 1111), Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1273), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) as his sources of inspiration, which shaped his understanding on social philosophy, and the meaning of life, all indicated his basic commitment to the philosophical outlook and value-system of Islam. According to a former colleague of Ungku Aziz at University of Malaya, he would consult his cousin, Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, on matters of religion as he regarded him as more conversant on the subject.

This is fortified further with various literatures and heritage of mankind, which he personally admired, such as the Samurai tradition’s code of conduct, Confucius’ philosophy, Anton Chekhov and Dostoevsky.

Herein lies the key point which we should pay more attention to about Ungku Aziz’s legacy: as noted by his daughter, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz more recently, he had always encouraged students to recognise different disciplines or the interconnectivity of disciplines of knowledge.

In other words, Ungku Aziz espoused a more universal outlook and integrative approach towards life and scholarship, which was most likely informed by the great literatures and philosophies he was acquainted with. Indeed, the literatures made him more humane, more selfless, and more thoughtful about his specialised field – economics.

In fact, according to the late H.W. Arndt from Australia, Ungku Aziz was “one of those distinguished economists who has never been entirely happy with economics as a discipline.”

Therefore, one can deduce that Ungku Aziz did not necessarily see the problems of the world through the lens of his specialisation but likely in a more interconnected way which regarded the following into the equation: the quality of the thoughts, the ethics and morality, the languages, the art, and the historical consciousness – the domains of what we today associate as the “humanities”.

Indeed, such a standpoint of Ungku Aziz is more emphasised in his article on “The Role of the University in Asia in the 21st Century” (1990), in which he had said:

“The traditional barriers between subjects are being reinforced by increasing scholarly specialisation for administrators in higher learning. In reality, the problems of the modern world have not conveniently fitted themselves into the pigeonholes of university departments. Many problems involving complexity need to be studied from a cross-disciplinary approach.”

It was perhaps for this reason also that Ungku Aziz was espousing that Malaysia must not neglect the proper appreciation of the great literatures and discourses of mankind of the past in the context of progressing as a country.

He once said, “The study of literature and mankind’s heritage should not be forgotten even though Malaysia is gearing towards becoming a scientific and progressive society in the next century… man could not live by science alone as he needed cultural nourishment for his mind… We have examples of advanced nations where scientific advancement is balanced by an education system that encourages learners to appreciate the great works of the past and present and to be familiar with at least a portion of the creative works and discourses of mankind through time and across the globe.” (New Straits Times, Dec 7, 1991).

Furthermore, having been exposed to great literary works of the world, Ungku Aziz recognised the importance for the Malays to be connected to their own literary and intellectual heritage even in the context of progress and development. In a newspaper report in 1985, Ungku Aziz publicly urged the learned community in Malaysia to study “the thinking of the Malay people of the past so that the findings can be used to contribute to the progress of this nation.”

This shows that contrary to mainstream or Western doctrines and conceptions on development that restricts development merely as economic growth, Ungku Aziz pursued a broader meaning of it – he was not an uncritical imitator of the West. It is thus for the next generation of researchers to further scrutinise the concepts he employed, the solutions he proposed, and his development vision as a whole.

By Muhammad Syafiq Borhannuddin.

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2020: The year of living dangerously

January 4th, 2021
This May 10, 2020 file pic  shows, security official fixing barbed wires in Petaling Jaya after they implementation of CMCO. -NSTP/OSMAN ADNAN  This May 10, 2020 file pic shows, security official fixing barbed wires in Petaling Jaya after they implementation of CMCO. -NSTP/OSMAN ADNAN

LETTER: 2020 – The year to remember for the Covid-19 pandemic,

When a novel contagion triggered worldwide panic.

Misery caused to many countries and economies.

Infecting tens of millions and killing hundreds of thousands.

Besieged socio-economically have been governments,

Trade, jobs, businesses are the major casualties,

Emergencies, shutdowns and lockdowns have become the norm,

Brewing also around the globe is political tension.

An educative episode it’s been for every human.

The message: Stop the wanton environmental destruction!

Climate change it is for now; unheeded, it’ll be climactic rage!

If world leaders on their protocols and promises renege.

A scourge like this none since the dawn of civilization

Breakthrough vaccines timely rescued mankind’s brush with extinction

Masks, quarantines, SOPs and frontliners aid the pandemic recovery

Will all be forgotten, and man continue living dangerously??


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High daily numbers putting strain on health system

January 4th, 2021
People in face masks walking in the rain in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. PIC BY AIZUDDIN SAADPeople in face masks walking in the rain in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. PIC BY AIZUDDIN SAAD

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians should be wary of the daily Covid-19 numbers, which show cases in the thousands in the last 24 days, said health experts.

The constant high numbers, they added, caused a strain on the healthcare system and frontliners.

They reminded the public that adherence to the standard operating procedures (SOP) was the best way to curb infections.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president, Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said although a vaccine would soon be available, it was not a solution to the pandemic situation in the country.

“We should worry about the increasing number of cases and deaths all over Malaysia.

“Vaccines only protect, but they will not reduce transmission until enough people are vaccinated.

“Even with the vaccines, they will take some time to ease the burden on healthcare workers.

“People should adhere to the SOP and practise the new norms, as these are the most effective method of prevention,” he told the New Straits Times.

The country recorded its highest single-day count at 2,525 on Dec 31.

The lowest that the numbers had dipped to in December was on Dec 2, at 851 cases.

Medical expert Professor Dr Malina Osman said the total active cases of 20,000 was four times more than when the country was under the Movement Control Order in March.

“Now we are allowed to be outdoors and I’ve observed that most of the SOP is not being fully complied with.

“So it’s expected that there will be an increase in new cases in the next few weeks.

“In terms of surveillance and public health, we hope that there will not be a sudden surge of new cases, therefore, avoiding a burden on our health system and intensive care unit management.”

On the vaccine, Dr Malina said the Health Ministry would need robust and comprehensive data to ensure its safety and efficacy.

She said as the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine had never been tested on the Malaysian population, the ministry had decided to study available and ongoing data within the recommended duration.

“However, in light of the present situation, we have to weigh the circumstances in our country, amount of money spent on outbreak management, as well as the spread of infection in the community.”

Dr Malina said Singapore, with a demographic structure similar to Malaysia, had approved the vaccine for its people.

“If the situation worsens in this country, perhaps we can expedite studying the data and grant approval for the emergency use of the vaccine.”

Covid-19: 1,704 new cases reported, 11 fatalities bring death toll to 494

January 3rd, 2021

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 1,704 new Covid-19 infections on Sunday (Jan 3), says the Health Ministry.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the country also reported 11 new Covid-19 fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 494.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Malaysia)

A total of 2,726 patients recovered and were discharged, which means the total number of people who have recovered from Covid-19 in the country is 97,218.

INTERACTIVE: Latest figures (Worldwide)

Active cases in the country now stand at 21,365.

In total, Malaysia has recorded 119,077 Covid-19 cases.

Currently, 124 people are being treated at intensive care units, with 51 of them requiring ventilator support.


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Australia’s COVID-19 cases on the rise as masks made compulsory

January 3rd, 2021

FILE PHOTO People walk down a city laneway after coronavirus disease COVID-19 restrictions were eased for the state of Victoria in Melbourne Australia October 28 2020. REUTERSSandra Sanders

FILE PHOTO: People walk down a city laneway after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were eased for the state of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia’s most-populous state of New South Wales (NSW) reported eight new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, while neighbouring Victoria’s tally increased by three, as new measures to combat the disease kicked in.

The NSW outbreak started around mid-December in Sydney’s Northern Beaches area, where a quarter of a million people are in strict lockdown until Jan. 9. Cases associated with the cluster now total 148.

A smaller cluster in the west of the city, linked to a different genome sequence, has 13 confirmed cases. But the state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said authorities are worried as recent transmission at a liquor store occurred with “fleeting” exposure.

“We know these transmission events have happened through very minimal exposure. We are asking members of the community who did purchase alcohol or enter that premises for that period to be very vigilant,” Chant told reporters.

NSW has made wearing masks mandatory at indoor venues like gaming rooms, hair salons and shops as authorities try to limit the spread of the disease. They will be legally enforced from midnight local time.

Australia has avoided the worst of the pandemic following swift action by authorities to shut borders, enforce lockdowns, and to carry out widespread testing and social distancing.

Since the pandemic began, it has reported more than 28,450 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths. (Graphic:

Despite the outbreak in Sydney, a scheduled 5-day cricket match between Australia and India, starting on Thursday, will go ahead, although with a reduced number of spectators. Five Indian players have been placed in isolation while the Australian and Indian cricket boards investigate allegations of a breach of biosecurity protocols.

In Victoria, where all cases are linked to the same Melbourne restaurant, officials are investigating how the disease spread from the source in NSW, authorities said.

Victoria has more than 30 active cases and has made masks mandatory across the state, restricted the number of people who can meet socially and shut its border with NSW.

Health authorities have identified 220 “close contacts” and more than 50 “exposure sites” linked to positive cases.

But, “what is important is that they are in quarantine when they are diagnosed so that the risk of onward transmission is reduced,” Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said in Melbourne.

by Swati Pandey; Editing by David Gregorio and Neil Fullick.

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