Army patrols Malaysian streets after coronavirus spike

1 / 2
Food delivery motorbike drivers at a military checkpoint. Photo courtesy: (Ministry of Defense)
2 / 2
Soldiers in face masks maintain a checkpoint in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 23 March 2020

Army patrols Malaysian streets after coronavirus spike

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the measures last Wednesday following an exponential jump in the number of infections across the country

KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly 50,000 Malaysian troops began patrolling streets, markets, border entry points and other highly populated areas on Sunday to enforce a two-week restriction on movement after the number of coronavirus cases spiked to 1,306 across the country.
Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the measure was part of the government’s efforts to enforce the Restriction of Movement Order (RMO), which includes the setting up of a special task force comprising the police and the military.
It will soon incorporate the People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM).
“Complying with the restrictions is very crucial,” Sabri told reporters at a press conference on Sunday, adding that nearly 50,000 personnel had been mobilized to “fully enforce” the RMO.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the measures last Wednesday following an exponential jump in the number of infections across the country.
Sabri said: “Based on police reports, even though 90 percent of Malaysians are complying with the RMO, 10 percent (those not complying) isn’t a small number for a country of 32 million.” He added: “Many people are still unaware that the RMO has been enforced.”
Malaysia became the epicenter of the virus in the region after a mass gathering of 16,000 worshippers from Malaysia and other countries took place at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur in late February, infecting hundreds of attendees and their close contacts.
Officials say 62 percent, or 743, of the 1,306 infected patients are from the same cluster, with health authorities working round the clock to track down the rest of the attendees and screen them for the virus.

FASTFACT

Health officials say more than 1,300 have contracted the deadly disease.

The sudden jump in infections means Malaysia now has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, and the third-highest in Asia after China and South Korea.
“This is quite worrying,” MP Fahmi Fadzil told Arab News on Sunday. His constituency of Lembah Pantai has recorded one of the highest numbers of cases in Kuala Lumpur.
“The involvement of the military hasn’t caused too much misunderstanding among the population; the aim is to make sure people don’t move about,” he said, adding that most people are more compliant with the RMO now than they were before.
Detailing the measures involved, Fahmi said the Health Ministry had not provided more details of the infected areas so “people don’t have the wrong impression of these specific localities.”
He added that the public must comply with the authorities’ enforcement of the RMO, and practice social distancing and good personal hygiene.
With the death toll climbing to 10 on Sunday, several residents said they were worried that the two-week lockdown, if extended, could impact the economy and their livelihoods.
“The government must act faster to address economic issues, not only for businesses but also for the urban poor,” Fahmi said.
“I’m getting many calls and complaints, especially among daily-wage workers who have no income now.”
Joycelyn Lee, founder of the Pit Stop Community Cafe, which serves hot meals and essential food items to the urban poor, said she had seen an increase in the number of visitors.
“People need food. We saw not just our regulars but new faces, those who’ve lost their jobs, who’ve not been able to find daily work, who have limited access to regular food,” Lee, who works with a minimal number of volunteers to limit interaction, told Arab News.
“It’s a challenging time, and together with our other soup kitchen colleagues we’re working with disadvantaged communities,” she said, adding that 42 percent of her clients are above 60 years of age.
The two-week curfew has also affected people from the creative industry, including 34-year-old musician Grace Cho.
She said the means to livelihood for many musicians had been cut off as only businesses offering essential services are allowed to remain open.
“The impact is heavier on musicians and bands performing at clubs as that’s their bread and butter,” Cho told Arab News.
“We don’t have a proper system to support the creative line, thus it’s difficult for us. I can’t go out freely to meet my friends and practice our music together,” she said.
“Most musicians can’t perform outside anymore as no venue will invite any bands or musicians.”
The move, she said, has also affected her psychologically as she has not stepped out of her house since the RMO was enforced.
“I’d been working a lot before the RMO, but now I’m facing withdrawal symptoms. I constantly feel that I have nothing to do, and that makes me feel restless,” Cho said.


UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

Updated 08 April 2020

UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

  • Britain’s leader was in "good spirits,” his spokesman said on Wednesday
  • The UK was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections

LONDON: Britain’s government sought Wednesday to keep a grip on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a third day in the intensive care unit of a London hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab chaired a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 crisis committee while the number of virus-related deaths reported in the UK approached the levels seen in the worst-hit European nations, Italy and Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the British leader was in "good spirits".
"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas' hospital. He is in good spirits," the spokesman told reporters.
The country’s confirmed death toll reached 6,159 as of Tuesday, an increase of 786 from 24 hours earlier. That was the biggest daily leap to date, although the deaths reported Tuesday occurred over several days.
The virus has hit people from all walks of life — including Johnson, the first world leader known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year-old prime minister was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he tested positive for the virus.
He was moved to the ICU on Monday night after his condition deteriorated. 
Johnson’s illness has unleashed a wave of sympathy for the prime minister, including from his political opponents. It has also heightened public unease about the government’s response to the outbreak, which faced criticism even with the energetic Johnson at the helm.
Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically the number of individuals tested for the virus.
Britain has no official post of deputy or acting prime minister, but Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to temporarily take over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic.
But Raab’s authority is limited. He can’t fire Cabinet ministers or senior officials, and he won’t hold the prime minister’s weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In the British political system, the prime minister’s power lies less in the role’s specific responsibilities — which are relatively few — than in the leader’s political capital and authority as “first among equals” in the Cabinet.
That’s especially true in Johnson’s government, which is made up of relatively inexperienced ministers appointed by a prime minister with a big personality and a hefty personal mandate from a resounding election victory in December.
In Johnson’s absence, it’s unclear who would decide whether to ease nationwide lockdown measures the British government imposed on March 23 in response the worldwide pandemic. The initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.
“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”
Meanwhile, officials are watching anxiously to see whether Britain’s hospitals can cope when the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaches its peak. Before the outbreak, the UK had about 5,000 intensive care beds, and the government has been scrambling to increase that capacity.
The Nightingale Hospital — a temporary facility for coronavirus patients built in nine days at London’s vast ExCel conference center — admitted its first patients on Wednesday. It can accommodate 4,000 beds, if needed. even other temporary hospitals are being built around the country.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is the epicenter of Britain’s outbreak, had one-quarter of its existing hospital beds still available, as well as the new Nightingale hospital.
“It demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus,” he said.