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JOHOR BARU - The Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis) foiled an attempt to bring in vegetables from Singapore on Wednesday (March 25).
The shipment was in a lorry coming from the island republic driven by a local and stopped at about 9am at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex.
State Maqis director Nur Afifah A. Rahman, in a statement Thursday (March 26), said the shipment comprising 42 boxes of baby beans, 21 boxes of watercress, 45kg of garlic, 4kg of bay leaves and 2kg of yellow chives did not have a valid permit.
"All of the RM2,037 (S$680) worth of vegetables was seized as it did not adhere to the rules for import.
"The case is being investigated under Section 15(1) of the Quarantine and Inspection Services Act 2011, which carries a fine of up to RM100,000 or six years' imprisonment," she said, adding that the driver has been released after giving his statement.
She added that the import of seeds, saplings, stems, tissue culture and other forms to reproduce plants are required to be issued permits by Maqis.
Fruits and vegetables must have proper authorisation from the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama).
"The import of agriculture produce that does not follow proper procedure can bring devastation to the local farming industry, as these produce may carry harmful pests," she said.
PETALING JAYA - A two-year-old boy who is suffering from leukaemia tested positive for Covid-19, according to a children's cancer support group.
The boy, Muhammad Fateh Aqil Mohd Nazmee, was supposed to undergo chemotherapy treatment at Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Kerian, but a blood test found he was positive for Covid-19, said the Persatuan Sokongan Anak-Anak Kanser (Pesona).
"We hope people will pray for his recovery and that he is able to continue his fight," it said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (March 24).
According to a report by reporters, Fateh was being treated at the Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital in Kota Baru and contracted the virus from a family member.
PETALING JAYA - Malaysians who observe Qing Ming festival could do so from home amid the movement control order (MCO).
"It is not a must for families to go to the gravesite of their dearly departed during this festival, " said Federation of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Chinese Cemetery and Kwong Tong Cemetery Management Kuala Lumpur president Lee Chun Kong.
"Qing Ming is about remembering our forefathers, paying homage to them and celebrating their lives and legacy.
"We can still do so from home by offering incense, fresh flowers and tea.
"Even for those living in high-rise buildings, one can still do so with simpler offerings, " he said.
Since the MCO started on March 18, Lee said the federation and Kwong Tong had advised families to take precautions and practise social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19.
"With the extension of the MCO, Malaysians should really take the situation seriously and avoid going out, " he added.
He said caretakers had not seen anyone visiting the Kwong Tong gravesites and columbarium since the MCO was enforced.
Lee's comments were echoed by Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) president Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan who urged Malaysians to refrain from tomb-sweeping activities.
"We must all come together and fight this war by prioritising public health and following orders during the MCO.
"The Chinese community should defer tomb-sweeping until a suitable time later.
"It does not affect the thoughts we have for our dearly departed, " he said, adding that people should not put others at risk.
Qing Ming, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Chinese All Souls Day, falls on April 4 this year.
The festival, part of a tradition that has been observed for more than 2,500 years, involves family members gathering at cemeteries to clean the tombs and pay homage to their departed loved ones.
However, all such ceremonies have to be put on hold following the MCO, which is being enforced until April 14.
As burial services are still allowed, Lee noted that Kwong Tong has imposed strict rules on funeral rites at its Guang Yi funeral parlours.
"The wake is only allowed for a day before burial or cremation. There should not be over 15 people in a funeral parlour at a time.
"Only selected non-air-conditioned halls would remain open for funeral rites beginning next week, " he added.
He said Kwong Tong had suspended the processing of non-urgent matters, including the sale of burial plots, niches and tombs, as well as the relocation of the remains of the deceased.
"Families are encouraged to simplify funeral rites and the number of people gathering to send off their loved one should be kept small. It is difficult but it is the best during this period."
Nirvana Asia Group founder Tan Sri Kong Hon Kong acknowledged that many people would still prefer to stick to the tradition of performing their filial duty by being present at the tomb.
"However, we are now in unusual times and we encourage social distancing to keep everyone safe, " he said.
"We believe that filial piety can be practised not only during Qing Ming but throughout the year as it is the thought that counts."
"As citizens, we have to abide by the guidelines provided by our government to ensure everyone is safe and protected from the virus, " he added.
In a notice posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday, Nirvana Asia said that other festivals like the Hungry Ghost Festival and Winter Solstice Festival also allow for ancestral worship rites.
Paul Ng, 70, who manages a funeral service and prayer item business with his wife in Melaka, said his business went down significantly since tomb-sweeping activities had been put on hold.
"Funerals are kept simple and not elaborate during this critical time. With offerings being done from home for Qing Ming, less prayer paraphernalia is needed, " he said.
Yee Pau Kong, 50, who sells prayer items in Seri Kembangan, said that over 80 per cent of the items he ordered for Qing Ming were not sold following the MCO.
"The inventory is stuck and I can only hope to sell them next year, " he said.
Yee said he had decided not to operate his business for health concerns, although there had been calls requesting prayer or funeral items.
"It is more important to keep everyone safe. I can think about earning the money later, " he added.
Small-time food business owners are finding it difficult to maintain their business during the movement control order (MCO) period despite offering delivery service to customers.
Khairul Hafizi, the director of franchise Goreng Pisang Crispy which has stalls in Selangor and Johor, expressed concerns over how orders made through delivery are not as much as compared to when they had physical stalls.
"We try to make around RM200 (S$66) per day now through deliveries. It used to be up to RM600 per day for those selling at stalls. We can only offer one item now which is our usual pisang goreng as suppliers for other types of kuih have all closed for MCO," Khairul said when contacted by reporters.
Before MCO kicked off, Khairul announced on Goreng Pisang Crispy's Facebook page that customers can reach out to them for delivery and even introduced features like contactless delivery.
Ismail Razali, who runs Gerai Kuih Tradisional with his wife Anisah at Wangsa Maju in Kuala Lumpur, said he is now only taking orders from regular customers through WhatsApp.
"Now is a difficult time for people like me who can't earn our usual daily income from food stalls," Ismail said, adding that he has been running the kuih stall business for 19 years.
Md Yasin, who runs the Cendol Durian Atok Sentul stall, took to Facebook to announce that customers can place delivery orders for items like durian cendol and drinks from his stall.
"I can only get around five orders per day now. I understand maybe people don't want to spend so much during this time," he said.
He hopes business will eventually improve as he tries to raise more awareness about his cendol delivery service on social media, informing users with daily postings of his food items.
"Customers shouldn't worry because we will use gloves, face masks and hand sanitisers when we do the delivery. When customers order cendol, we will pack it into an ice box so it won't melt by the time they receive the delivery," he said.
However Khairul Azman, who runs the Man Nasi Kukus restaurant in Sungai Buloh, said he has stopped taking delivery orders and decided to temporarily close his business during MCO.
"We announced that we are open for delivery and takeaways through our Facebook page on March 17. After about a week of slow business, we decided it's not a good time to continue operating. For now, some like myself will just focus on doing some online business like selling hand sanitisers from home," he said.
There is a silver lining for some businesses with an established delivery presence like Ajoy Nasi Lemak based in Kuala Lumpur. Owner Faizul Ghafar said business has been booming since MCO began as more customers are calling in for delivery.
"In one day, we have doubled the orders - now up to 80 - and we cater for breakfast from 6am to 12pm. I think it's because our customers in this area are already familiar with delivery service," he shared.
He said customers can send him a WhatsApp message to place orders or through apps like Grab and Foodpanda. His own riders are equipped with face masks, hand sanitisers and told to practice contactless delivery.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today (March 25) announced that the MCO period, which was initially set from March 18 to 31, has now been extended to April 14.
During MCO, Malaysians are urged to stay home and food outlets are only allowed to operate as services offering takeaways or deliveries.
PETALING JAYA - Action will be taken against those who insist on leaving their home for no good reason during the movement control order (MCO) period, says the Inspector-General of Police.
Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador on Wednesday (MArch 25) said authorities had been given the green light to ensure increased compliance with the order aimed at minimising the spread of Covid-19.
"About 110 people have been arrested in the past seven days for flouting the MCO," he said in an interview on Selamat Pagi Malaysia.
He said those arrested weren't only being rebellious against the MCO, but had also threatened and cursed at authorities enforcing the order.
"To those who think they are invincible to the disease and want to act tough, don't be surprised if you are arrested. And please be prepared to spend a few nights in police lock-up," he said.
He also warned unscrupulous businesses trying to make a quick buck from the rising anxiety due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said police had opened about 370 investigation papers on cheating cases and had made 25 arrests, with 11 already charged in court.
"These unscrupulous businesses have cost victims close to RM3mil in losses. Rest assured, teams at the Commercial Crimes Investigations Department are looking into these cases seriously," he said.
In his interview during the morning talk show on RTM's TV1, Hamid reminded Malaysians to not discriminate against participants of the tabligh gathering at the Seri Petaling Mosque.
"The organisers have been very cooperative in getting participants to come forward and about 95 per cent of them have done so," he said.
He added the health ministry had also provided police with a list of tabligh participants who had been checked for Covid-19 and this would help police in identifying those who have yet to come forward.
Hamid also took the opportunity to extend Police Day greetings to teams working on the ground enforcing the order in conjunction with the 213rd Police Day, which falls on Wednesday.
He revealed that about 42,000 personnel were involved in enforcing the order at roadblocks, as well as attend to other crime-busting duties.
Khairi Akbar has been active in the Tabligh Jamaat missionary movement for years.
A regular at the mass Islamic prayer session it hosts in Malaysia annually, Khairi said this year's gathering from Feb 28 to March 1 had seemed no different.
He recalled thousands of fellow Muslims sitting in the mosque praying together, eating together, and listening to sermons on "how to rectify our own flaws, how to prepare ourselves for the afterlife, that sort of thing".
"We talked about the importance of the mosque in communities and how men must make the mosque 'alive'," he said.
But there was a difference to this year's event: Its disastrous consequences. The novel coronavirus spread through the gathering, which had attracted between 12,000 and 16,000 participants, turning it into Malaysia's largest cluster of infections.
In the weeks since the tabligh, nearly 600 attendees have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and there may be many more cases to come as hundreds or perhaps thousands of the participants are yet to be tracked.
The Ministry of Health believes 16,000 people attended the event and 4,000 are still missing; the tabligh says that based on the mosque capacity, no more than 12,500 people could have attended and 1,500 are missing.
Khairi, a spokesman for the mission, said nobody could have predicted the chaos.
"When the gathering was organised it was only the first wave of the virus in Malaysia. There were only a handful of cases, and there wasn't this widespread awareness.
Many other functions were going on, not just ours," said Khairi, 41, who himself caught the virus and is recovering in a government hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
"We got approval from City Hall and the police, we consulted the fire department, all necessary permits were obtained. There was nothing special about this gathering, it has been done for the last 30 or 40 years in Malaysia."
Soon after the event, however, a case in Brunei was traced back to the tabligh. About 1,500 people from overseas had attended the gathering and soon infections linked to it were appearing in Singapore, Thailand and across the region.
"That's when it really started. Hundreds of people got tested at the mosque, including me. I tested positive so now I am in the hospital. My family have no symptoms and are awaiting their test results," said Khairi, who is an asymptomatic carrier and reports he is "feeling fine".
He is well enough that he is keeping busy in his hospital room by helping the health authorities track the participants who remain unaccounted for.
About half of these are thought to be Rohingya, a vulnerable community in Malaysia, which has little to no institutional protection for refugees and asylum seekers and often deports undocumented immigrants, although the United Nations has said that it is reaching out to the community to help them access medical attention without consequences.
The Health Ministry fears these individuals could spread the virus beyond Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, where it has until now been largely contained.
Health Ministry director general Noor Hisham Abdullah said this week there had been a "few incidences" of patients linked to the tabligh concealing contacts, symptoms, travel history and contact information.
The tabligh accounts for more than 60 per cent of Malaysia's 900 cases and has come in for widespread criticism online. As the nation's first week under partial lockdown draws to a close - with one more week to go - many tempers are fraying and social media users have hit out at the attendees' "stupidity".
Khairi is at pains to battle such perceptions, an endeavour that is keeping him busy even in hospital.
The Malaysian chapter of the mission has had to scramble to deny its involvement with a planned, but since cancelled, tabligh gathering in Indonesia. "People blamed us in Malaysia for that too, even though we had nothing to do with it", Khairy said.
"We're really sorry that this happened. We've been part of the fabric of society for a long time. We hope this won't define how people look at us and we can move on together."
Meanwhile, more than 250 tabligh participants have remained in the mosque until their test results come through.
Among them is freelance cameraman Erwan Warga Iska, who said that despite the circumstances he was "in good spirits and good health". The men were able to cook their own meals and he was grateful for the assistance and care given to them by the Ministry of Health.
Asked if he was concerned about the coronavirus, he replied: "I can only smile and surrender myself to God's will."
KOTA KINABALU - Gas trader Chong Vui Siung would be lying if he said he was not worried or afraid every time he has to go out and deliver cooking gas cylinders to customers.
"I'm afraid of getting the virus, afraid of falling sick and even dying.
"But I know, if there is a need, I have to go out and deliver stock to my customers, " said the 30-year-old.
To minimise the risk of being infected, he makes sure that he and his brother, who is his work partner, as well as workers, always take safety precautions such as wearing masks and gloves.
"We try to observe social distancing when delivering gas cylinders, " he said.
For now, he limits his stock sending to just sundry shops and regular customers.
"I have to protect my family as well, as we try to help keep the stock running and for people out there, we also try and make sure we won't fall ill, " he said.
Banker Janice JC, 32, said during uncertain times such as this, she still has to work amid fears and concern for her health.
She is afraid of infecting others, especially her loved ones, if she gets infected.
"But what can I do? We bankers are considered essential services and I understand where our duty lies, " she said.
She hopes all those who go to banks are those who really need to do so, and that they make sure they are clear of Covid-19 before going out anywhere.
"Be responsible, don't go out and mingle around without getting yourself medically examined if you know you could pose a health risk to others, " she said.
TAIPING - A pregnant mother and her two children were killed in a fire at Kampung Sungai Relong, Kamunting, near here.
Their burnt bodies were found by firemen during the firefighting operation yesterday which began at about 1.35am, said Taiping OCPD Asst Comm Osman Mamat.He said the deceased were Jazmanniza Man, 35, Muhammad Anas Rizqi Mokhd Khairul, four, and Nur Auliya Medina Mohd Khairul, three.
He said the woman was five to six months' pregnant.
Her husband Mohd Khairul Ismail, 38, son Muhammad Afip Aryan, six, and her brother Jamal Alzuan, 33, were injured but survived the incident, ACP Osman said in a statement.
The cause of the fire was still being investigated, he added.
He said the bodies of the deceased had been sent to the Taiping Hospital for post-mortem.
KUALA LUMPUR - Drones will be deployed to various locations, especially at 12 hotspot areas during the movement control order (MCO) period, says Jen Tan Sri Affendi Buang.
The Armed Forces chief said the drones could not cover the whole of the country, but will focus on the 12 hotspot areas.
"We will also target locations where people are still stubborn (in complying with the MCO).
"We hope the use of the drones can enable a more efficient patrol and monitoring of the people during the MCO," he told reporters after attending a demonstration of the drone capabilities, which was attended by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador.
While not disclosing the exact number of drones that will be used, Jen Affendi said some are government assets while some are lent by local industry.
"The drones are able to record live footage. We will also be able to identify those captured in the footage.
"If and when needed, personnel will also be deployed at certain locations (after footage is captured)," he added.
The drones can operate between 40 minutes to an hour, Jen Affendi said.
"At a high populated area, it would be good enough if it can cover between 3km-5km radius.
"The MCO must reach its objective so that we can prevent Covid-19 from spreading.
"Best thing is for everyone to stay at home," he said.
The drones will be deployed based on suitability, he added.
Asked on certain quarters questioning why military personnel were armed when on duty during the MCO, Jen Affendi said not all personnel were armed.
"If five military personnel are deployed, only one is armed with a weapon.
"Our enemy is not the people but its Covid-19.
"I am satisfied with the deployment of my men in assisting the police to enforce the MCO," he added.
On those who questioned the military presence, Jen Affendi said their role is to prevent the situation from worsening.
"Let's work together to stop the spread of the virus," Jen Affendi said.
PETALING JAYA: The funeral arrangements and mourning guidelines for those who died from Covid-19 will be painful for their next of kin, if not worse, say a mufti and a funeral parlour management.
According to the Health Ministry's guidelines, the bodies of Covid-19 patients can only be handled by those specially trained to handle those who died from infectious diseases.
Under these circumstances, the bodies will not be handed over to families, who will also not be allowed to touch them, bathe them (as per Islamic requirements) and dress them.
In short, family members will not be allowed to give them the typical send-off that is normally done for other deaths.
Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Dr Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor said the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has issued strict orders on how to prepare such bodies for burial.
"The body would likely be prepared by the hospital authorities. According to the guidelines issued by the authorities, in line with the advice of the Health Ministry, the body is not allowed to be brought home or to the mosque for the funeral prayers (solat jenazah).
"There will only be dry ritual purification (using dust or air) and no kain kapan (shroud).
"In Malaysia, the Islamic authorities have decided that if there is a danger to the living in preparation of the dead body, we will prepare the body with the least risks such as performing the dry purification upon the dead body while it is encased in plastic or body bag," said Wan Salim.
A circular issued by the Penang Mufti office states that the preparations of the dead body of a Covid-19 victim would be the same as those who died from the Ebola virus.
"There are exemptions from following the normal rules if there are situations which will endanger those who are preparing the body for burial," stated the guidelines, with further instructions on how to perform the rites in such cases.
As was done for a Covid-19 victim in Melaka, medical personnel wearing the full set of personal protective equipment that covers the person from head to toe will do the burial.
In Kuala Lumpur, the first team for Muslim funeral preparations for Covid-19 victims was set up by the Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi) on March 21.
As for non-Muslims, Nirvana Care Sdn Bhd, one of the biggest funeral parlours in the country, said it would adhere strictly to the Health Ministry procedures.
Nirvana Care's general manager for sales and service Teh Khai Lin said that the parlour had taken all precautions and preparations to deal with the funeral of Covid-19 victims.
Even though bodies will not be prepared at the parlour or brought to the parlour for wakes, Teh said all arrangements were in place to ensure appropriate social distancing during mourning.
"In this period of the movement control order, even for funerals of those not involving Covid-19 victims, we are ensuring only a maximum of 10 minutes for mourners and appropriate social distancing of having limited numbers during the wakes, with no food served.
"We hope we will never have to handle (a Covid-19 victim). However, if we do, we have fully prepared our staff.
"There will be no body lying at the wake and from what we see, it can be very distressing for those in mourning," said Teh.