Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown as cases reach 1,800

Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown as cases reach 1,800
The lockdown should have begun two weeks ago, a professor told Arab News. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 March 2020

Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown as cases reach 1,800

Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown as cases reach 1,800
  • Premier says government to release new economic stimulus package in couple of days


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Wednesday extended its two-week restriction of movement order until April 14 as the number of coronavirus cases spiralled to nearly 1,800.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that the decision had been taken for people to make “the necessary preparations” for the more extended period of the partial lockdown.

“Current trends show that new cases of COVID-19 are still happening. This trend is expected to continue for some time before new cases begin to decline,” the 72-year-old premier said, adding that the development required the government to continue with the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Since the sudden spike in coronavirus infections in early March, 1,796 cases and 17 deaths were reported as of Wednesday, with the number of positive cases doubling in just one week.

Muhyiddin, quoting details shared by the National Security Council, said that positive cases for the virus “are expected to increase if nothing is done to control the spread of the epidemic.” 

At present, the Malaysian authorities’ strategy is to “find, screen, isolate and treat COVID-19 patients,” as well as “increase the capacity to conduct screening tests on a larger scale.”

“We cannot be satisfied with the steps we are taking right now until we have successfully zeroed-in on new cases,” he said, adding that the government will be conducting mass coronavirus testing in high-risk areas, especially in Kuala Lumpur’s “red zones,” which the Health Ministry said has more than 40 COVID-19 cases.

“Just be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period,” the Malaysian leader advised, urging people to stay put until the MCO was lifted.

“I know you feel burdened, but I don’t have a choice. I have to extend the movement control order for your safety,” he said. 

A report by JP Morgan released on Tuesday said that the number of cases “will peak to about 6,300 in mid-April,” with an extension of the partial lockdown expected to leave a massive dent on the economy and impact daily wage workers, including those in the rural areas, migrant workers and refugees.

To limit the impact of the crisis, Muhyiddin said that the government would release a new economic stimulus package in a couple of days while assuring the public that “no one will be left behind.”

And experts remained optimistic, saying that it was a step in the right direction.

Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University, told Arab News that Malaysia is on the right track in terms of its mitigation plan, although adding that the MCO could have been in place earlier.

“The lockdown should have begun two weeks ago. Our big problem now is with the three million undocumented migrants and refugees — if these high-risk group turns out to be positive, do they have enough beds at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?” Chin said.

Dr. Khor Swee Kheng, a Malaysian physician and public health specialist, told Arab News that he welcomed the government’s measures to expand the testing measures, but warned that the health-care system might be stretched.

“With additional measures by the Health Ministry to increase the production of kits, better distribution across Malaysia, reduce wastage of unnecessary testing and to test undocumented migrants for free, we should be able to test 16,000 per day before April comes,” Dr. Khor said, adding that Malaysia was “ahead of the curve in most ways, compared to Europe, the US and ASEAN.” 

“Our testing rates are among the highest in the world, the mortality rates among the lowest and our health system have not been as tested as that of Italy or Iran. However, the triple measures of social distancing, mass testing and contact tracing must be maintained so that our health system does not get fatigued,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Adip Zalkapli, director at BowerGroupAsia, applauded the government’s actions but warned that Malaysia’s future success in mitigating the virus remained uncertain.

“We are in uncharted waters now. The health service and security forces are managing and responding to the outbreak well. Hopefully, in the coming days or weeks, we will hear from the government a robust economic recovery plan to help Malaysia rebound quickly from this crisis,” he said.

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
Updated 19 January 2021

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
  • Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters underground near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province

BEIJING: Chinese rescuers drilled several fresh holes Tuesday to reach at least 12 gold miners trapped underground for nine days, as dwindling food supplies and rising waters threatened their survival.
Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters (1,750 feet) underground at the Hushan mine near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province after an explosion damaged the entrance.
After days without any signs of life, some of the trapped miners managed to send up a note attached to a metal wire which rescuers had dropped into the mine on Sunday.
Pleading for help, the handwritten message said a dozen of them were alive but surrounded by water and in need of urgent medical supplies.
Several of the miners were injured, the note said.
A subsequent phone call with the miners revealed 11 were in one location 540 meters below the surface with another – apparently alone – trapped a further 100 meters down.
The whereabouts and condition of the other 10 miners is still unknown.
Rescuers have already dug three channels and sent food, medicine, paper and pencils down thin shafts – lifelines to the miners cut into the earth.
But progress was slow, according to Chen Fei, a top city official.
“The surrounding rock near the ore body is mostly granite... that is very hard, resulting in slow progress of rescue,” Chen told reporters on Monday evening.
“There is a lot of water in the shaft that may flow into the manway and pose a danger to the trapped workers.”
Chen said the current food supply was only enough for two days.
Rescuers drilled three more channels on Tuesday, according to a rescue map published on the Yantai government’s official twitter-like Weibo account.
A telephone connection has also been set up.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed dozens of rescuers clearing the main return shaft, while cranes and a massive bore-hole drill was used to dig new rescue channels to reach the trapped miners.
Rescue teams lost precious time since it took more than a day for the accident to be reported, China Youth daily reported citing provincial authorities.
Both the local Communist Party secretary and mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.
In December, 23 workers died after being stuck underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing, just months after 16 others died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped underground at another coal mine in the city.