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JOHOR BARU - Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has urged the authorities not to hold the Ramadan bazaar in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Johor Ruler said as new cases were being detected on a daily basis, it was not the time to hold any event involving mass gathering.
"The complete effect of the movement control order must be achieved first and this must be our priority and concern.
"The Ramadan bazaar can wait, " His Majesty said in a statement on his official Facebook page yesterday. Sultan Ibrahim added that the rakyat must be patient, stay at home and avoid any contact with others until the Health authorities gave the all-clear sign.
"If we ignore the movement control order the virus will spread and further strain the resources of our healthcare system, putting our healthcare workers and other frontliners at even greater risk.
"If we reach (the) breaking point then we will all be helpless, " warned Sultan Ibrahim, adding that the aftermath of such a likelihood would have disastrous consequences on all strata of society and the country as a whole.
"Do not take advantage of the situation and hold any mass gatherings. There should be no excuses. Everybody must play their part to contain and fight the spread of this deadly disease.
"The faster we all co-operate, the sooner we can return to normalcy, " His Majesty stressed.
Sultan Ibrahim also said now was the time for all to unite and help the government combat the pandemic.
"Forget about politics, please let us work together to save our country from this crisis."
KEPALA BATAS - The mother of a Malaysian stuck on board a cruise ship for a month has been having sleepless nights, worrying over the fate of her son.
Kamariah Yusof (pic), 67, said she was worried for 39-year-old son Izwan Hilmy.
"I hope he is safe and healthy, " she said when met at their house in Bertam near here.
She said she trusted her son's abilities because he had been working abroad since he was in his 20s, but she was worried he might contract the virus.
"I have never been worried about him before, but this time I feel nervous that Covid-19 might infect him, " she said, adding that her son worked in Singapore and Australia before going to Europe early last year.
Kamariah said Izwan, who is the third among four siblings, recently expressed a desire to come back to Malaysia and find a job in Kuala Lumpur or Penang.
She hoped that the authorities would let her son come home and be tested.
"Please, I want him to come back as soon as possible. If doctors want to test him, please do so, as long as he comes home, " she said.
The rate of new coronavirus infections in Malaysia appears to be slowing amid month-long curbs on movement, a senior health official said on Wednesday, citing research by a government-backed think tank.
Malaysia, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, with 2,908 reported infections and 45 deaths, has imposed restrictions on travel and non-essential business until April 14.
The number of reported cases so far is 1,321 fewer than earlier projected, according to a graph released on Tuesday by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER).
The graph also indicated that the number of cases was increasing at an average rate of 7.5 per cent per day, far below MIER's estimate of 12.5 per cent.
"As you can see, the line is starting to flatten," the director-general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told a news conference while holding up the MIER graph.
"So we hope in the next two weeks, we can flatten the projected curve even more."
The number of coronavirus infections has risen by generally 140-200 a day since the movement curbs were imposed two weeks ago. Noor Hisham had earlier said the government was preparing for a surge of about 1,000 cases daily.
Malaysia on Wednesday tightened the restrictions further, limiting operating hours for essential businesses such as supermarkets, food delivery services and public transport.
It has also imposed full lockdowns in three locations where spikes in coronavirus cases were detected.
PETALING JAYA - From rabbit food to boxes of potato chips, hoarders who confessed to their bulk buying say they did it to have peace at home.
A writer, who only wanted to be known as Mark, said his house had always been well stocked with a specific brand of potato chips and luncheon meat even before the movement control order (MCO).
"So, if we can't find it during the MCO period, it will be like the end of the world for my seven-year-old son, " said Mark, who is in his 50s.
Thus, he leapt to action just before the MCO was enforced on March 18.
He spent about RM300 (S$100) on 24 cans of luncheon meat.
Later, Mark bought 24 canisters of potato chips of the brand that his boy wanted, which cost him about RM100.
"I don't consider it being greedy, because it is not like other essential items such as bread or eggs, " he said.
"But it is a necessity in my household, and if I don't buy it in bulk, I would have to wait so long when I'm shopping at the supermarket and there may be no stock available.
"For those who are older, we will just shut up and eat whatever we have. But for our children, it may be difficult to explain this to them, " he added.
A woman, who only wanted to be known as Melissa, said she had purchased about RM140 worth of food for her pet rabbit.
"I bought about two months' worth of rabbit food because it is quite hard to find and it's expensive if you don't get shop discounts, " she said.
"Also, the pet stores would not be opened during this time."
Teacher Jonathan Tan (not his real name) stocked up on snacks he loved such as junk food and ice cream.
"I also bought bags of chips and snacks, along with two quarts of ice cream, " said Tan, 29.
He added that he spent about RM100 for the snacks which, to him, was a type of comfort food during the MCO.
"I have a sweet tooth and I like to munch on snacks, " he said.
Private sector executive Dennis Wong, 39, admitted to stocking up on beer, canned food and instant noodles.
"I got beer because I can't go to the pub since they are all closed, instant noodles just in case I am too busy to cook and canned food for lazy days, " he said.
"Otherwise, I still go out to get my rations as the supermarket is near my house."
PUTRAJAYA - The Health Ministry may consider "drive thru Ramadan bazaars" as alternatives to the traditional food bazaars in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it welcomes such "innovative ideas" which can help prevent large gatherings that expose people to the coronavirus threat.
"Suggestions to organise "drive-thru" Ramadan bazaars or online bazaars are new and innovative ideas that the ministry can consider.
"What we want to do is to prevent large gatherings and continue to impose social distancing among members of the public.
"So, these are the type of ideas that we are open to. The ministry however will refer to our own guiding principles before we can decide to approve and implement these new ideas, " said Dr Noor Hisham at a press conference here.
Many people, including health experts, have protested against the idea of having Ramadan bazaars this coming fasting month as these usually attract large crowds.
PETALING JAYA - Malaysians are calling for the annual Ramadan bazaar to be called off, citing concerns over the Covid-19 virus, which have infected more than 2,000 over the recent weeks.
Social media users have expressed their fear that a potential third wave of Covid-19 cases could be triggered if the authorities gave the green light for Ramadan bazaars.
Some are even saying that if held, the Ramadan bazaar could put efforts made by frontliners during the 28-day MCO to waste.
"I cannot imagine how social distancing can happen!" said Azni Zain Ahmed.
Facebook user Donald Vincent pointed out that buying food at Ramadan bazaars is a luxury, as Malaysians can choose to prepare their own meals at home instead.
"This is a luxury, not a necessity. Keep markets and groceries open for essentials. Enforce the Movement Control Order (MCO), " he said.
Earlier on Tuesday (March 31), Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said his ministry and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall are contemplating whether to approve any large-scale Ramadan bazaars after the MCO ends on April 14.
Similar views were shared by Bobby Tan, who said that any indecision by the authorities could cause a spike in Covid-19 cases after the MCO ends, adding that it could put the efforts made by front liners to waste.
"Are the authorities ready to bear the responsibility if another incident starts a third wave of Covid-19 cases, " added Siew Ping Tog.
Jelita Rubina Kayani, meanwhile, proposed for Ramadan bazaars to take place on an online platform set up by the customers.
"Let customers place orders from the different stalls online. This would be a great service by the town council to the people, to create a platform like this, " said Jelita.
Earlier on Tuesday, Health Ministry director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that proper crowd control measures are needed if Ramadan food bazaars are to be implemented.
PETALING JAYA - Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is helping food delivery workers earn a living by ordering food from home while under the movement control order (MCO).
He posted an 18-second video of a food delivery person delivering to his house on his Facebook page on Tuesday (March 31).
"Thank you, Mr Alfatah, who delivered my food which I had ordered. His service was fast, efficient and orderly.
"I think this is one of the ways I can help to increase their income as we obey the MCO," he said.
The country is currently under MCO until April 14 due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
KUALA LUMPUR - The government should subsidise the losses suffered by pharmacies from the sudden lowering of price for three-ply face masks from RM2 (S$0.70) to RM1.50, or else it should defer the decision for a month, says the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS).
Its president Amrahi Buang said MPS was disappointed that the move was taken without any prior notice or consultation with stakeholders.
"We firmly oppose the new price (RM1.50), which will take effect on April 1.
"We request that the government either subsidise the pharmacies that will incur losses or give them a deferment period of one month to clear out their stocks.
"Invoices can be provided with dates of purchase as evidence if required," he said in a letter dated March 30 addressed to the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The letter was also signed by Sarawak Pharmaceutical Society president Susan Tang and Sabah Pharmaceutical Society president Jemima Ho.
It was also forwarded to Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, National Disaster Management Agency director-general Datuk Mohtar Mohd Abd Rahman and Pharmaceutical Services senior director Datin Faridah Aryani Md. Yusuf.
Amrahi said market analysis and feedback had shown that when the ceiling price was raised to RM2 on March 21, many community pharmacies placed orders for face masks at the cost price, which was slightly lower than RM2.
"Many paid in full or paid 50 per cent of the deposit for stocks which are only due to arrive in April. The reduction of the ceiling price caught community pharmacies by surprise and leaves them no avenue to clear their existing stocks.
"Despite the removal of import and sales taxes, in states such as Sabah and Sarawak, the cost is still high due to transportation charges. Many pharmacies in these states are receiving the face masks at the high price of RM1.90," he said.
Amrahi said most community pharmacies did not make much profit from the sale of face masks and keep it in stock as a public service.
They also ration the sales carefully to maximise the number of people who can purchase the masks.
Moreover, a result of this short notice will cause a new shortage as many community pharmacies would no longer be able to sell the masks.
"This situation will only benefit black market sales of face masks at higher prices where the ceiling price is difficult to enforce (such as online or by word of mouth)," he added.
Amrahi said community pharmacists were the most accessible healthcare providers for the people, but the government and Health Ministry have failed to recognise their role as one of the frontliners fighting Covid-19 and giving out free masks.
"We hereby urge the government to take the initiative by instructing government agencies (including Nadma) that all pharmacies be included in their list of allowed purchases of locally-produced face masks.
"In addition, we welcome government assistance in our efforts to provide a stable supply of face masks to the public at a reasonable price," he said.
He added that the government should make available the list of potential local and international suppliers able to supply three-ply, medical-grade face masks at below RM1.50 or assist them in purchasing such stocks.
"We have advocated before and would like to reiterate that the government should nationalise all face mask manufacturing and supply so that the cost, quality and specification, especially the three-ply medical-grade face masks, can be standardised," he said.
PETALING JAYA - The Menara City One condominium tower in Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Kuala Lumpur, has been placed under an enhanced movement control order (MCO).
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (pic) said this was done after the Health Ministry linked 17 confirmed Covid-19 cases to the building.
The enhanced MCO will affect 3,200 residents in the 502 condominium units and business premises in the tower.
"Based on the number of cases and advice from the Health Ministry, it was decided that the enhanced MCO, which will be in place from March 31 to April 13.This will allow the tracking of cases from unit to unit within the 14 days," said Ismail Sabri in a statement on Monday (March 30)
Ismail Sabri added that all visitors are not allowed to enter the condominium block and said that all business activities are to be stopped immediately, except for those selling essentials.
"The residents can order food deliveries to be dropped off at the security posts at the lobby. There will be a medical base at the tower and all entrances and exits to the tower will be closed off, " he added.
He also said that police, army, Malaysian Civil Defence Force and Rela volunteers will be guarding the closed-off area.
"Residents who need assistance can contact the special hotline at 03-2694 3243/ 03-4026 7222 or 013-329 5141," said Ismail Sabri.
This is the third place where the enhanced movement control order has been placed, after two villages in Johor and an area of tahfiz schools in Hulu Langat.
Though most local game stores may be "closed" due to the movement control order (MCO), they are working even harder.
Gamers Hideout co-founder Ed Yap said his team is busier than ever handling delivery orders from customers across Malaysia.
"People are probably getting restless at home so gaming is a good way to pass time," Yap said.
Two days before MCO started, Gamers Hideout jokingly posted on its platforms, "hoarding games is better than hoarding toilet paper", he added.
Some had to be reassured that there won't be issues getting their games.
"We just tell our customers not to worry because they can still get their games online," said Impulse Gaming manager Ethan Wong.
However, he is concerned that delivery services may find it difficult to cope with orders during MCO.
A manager at KSL Hwa Ching Games in Johor, who only wanted to be known as Tan, said that a day before the shop closed for MCO, he noticed an uptick in customers looking to purchase gaming consoles for the first time.
"For most parents who came in with their kids, I recommended a Nintendo Switch because it has a lot of multiplayer games that family members can play together," he said.
Wong too said his store was overwhelmed by customers looking to stock up on some form of entertainment for the home before MCO.
"From the moment the shop opened in the morning from 11am to 9.30pm, I didn't have time to sit down or eat. Customers were buying consoles like the Switch and PlayStation 4," he said.
For the Switch, they mostly picked up titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Super Mario Party and Mario Kart 8.
"A lot of customers also came in asking for Ring Fit Adventure but it has been sold out for some time. I believe there's a worldwide shortage for the game. If we had it at the time, we could have sold a lot of it," he added.
For PlayStation 4, Wong said customers mostly got Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers and also placed orders for Resident Evil 3 which will be released on April 3.
Yap said Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the game that "literally everyone is asking for" during MCO.
The game was released on March 20 for the Switch.
"Users often look for new titles and Animal Crossing came out at the right time. Both the game and Animal Crossing-themed Switch console sold out in the first week of MCO," he said.
Another title that is expected to be a big hit is the PlayStation 4 remake of Final Fantasy VII which is coming out on April 10.
Customers have been waiting for it, said Wong, adding that he is worried that the store may not be able to deliver the game to its customers on time.
"Most gamers don't like to wait to play a new title. When it's out, they want to be able to play it immediately," he said.
Wong felt that gaming is becoming the preferred way to pass time during MCO because of the way it has evolved to cater to more and different types of players.
"The gameplay is no longer just hack and slash, it has become a lot more creative where players have to solve complicated puzzles or interact with others," he said.
"The Switch, for example, has brought people together because of its party games, as even parents can play with their kids.
"Now that people can't go out, I feel gaming at home is the way to go."