Alert on Covid-19 heightened, various major events postponed

by RAHIMI YUNUS & AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by AFP

SEVERAL government buildings, including some in the federal administrative centre in Putrajaya, are on higher alert with greater efforts and preventive measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has entered its second wave as confirmed cases rapidly increase globally by the day.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) learned that staff at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) were ordered to vacate their main building in Putrajaya and go straight home last Friday afternoon to make way for disinfection and sterilisation procedures.

The process was carried out after one of MoF’s high ranking officials tested positive for Covid-19. The affected officer is said to be part of Case 26’s cluster.

A source said all the evacuated government servants at the MoF had been told to only return to the office today, while those working at the same department of the infected MoF official have been told to stay home for self-quarantine over the next two weeks.

“The situation remains uncertain. Things could change,” the source who asked for anonymity told TMR.

Another source said part of the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry was also cleared for a that houses the offices of the secretary general and deputy secretary.

A different source told TMR that a number of Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) main buildings have undergone more aggressive precautionary measures as the company anticipates greater exposure to mainland Chinese workers following the rebooting of a number of manufacturers in China that specifically serve the telco business.

The source said many telco equipment firms and network operators in China, particularly in Wuhan, have restarted operations and TM are expected to touch base with the companies that it already has business ties with.

The source added that major TM buildings have been equipped with temperature sensors as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said six new cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 99 (at press time).

He said all the cases were detected and isolated for further treatment, and the close contacts of these cases were being identified for investigation and sampling.

Meanwhile, the global count has crossed 107,000 cases in 95 countries with over 3,600 deaths or a 3.42% mortality rate as estimated by the World Health Organisation.

The total recovered case worldwide stood at over 60,000 cases or a 56.26% recovery rate.

Sanitisation of Buildings

Last week, several buildings in Kuala Lumpur (KL) had to be closed for sanitisation due to the history of Covid-19 patients and close contacts within the premises.

Wisma Felcra closed for three days immediately from last Wednesday and underwent a two-day sanitation exercise after a board member was confirmed to be Covid-19 positive, also a close contact to Case 26. Felcra Bhd staff members are scheduled to return to the building today.

Tenants of Mercu UEM, which houses the headquarters (HQ) of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, were also evacuated last Monday to make way for sanitisation works following news that the state fund’s senior executive tested positive for Covid-19.

The Case 26 cluster outbreak also prompted other premises including Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd HQ, Pantai Hospital KL and Subang Jaya Medical Centre to be disinfected last week.

Last Thursday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) HQ and an old building in Cyberjaya were temporarily closed for two days as part of a proactive measure.

MCMC in a statement said the apparatus assignment payment counter service at its HQ had been suspended temporarily until yesterday.

The authorities have assured that the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia is still under control amid the chain of spread from Case 26 that has extended to the third generation.

The number of positive Covid-19 cases is growing in a second wave.

The latest 10 cases are linked to another cluster related to Case 33.

Universiti Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the situation can only be deemed out of control when the Health Ministry (MoH) can no longer cope with contact tracing due to an overwhelming number of cases.

“Right now, it is still under control because the MoH is still capable of tracing potential contacts. It may reach a point where there are just too many that the MoH will not be able to trace the contact or source of infection anymore,” Dr Sazaly told TMR.

He said if Malaysia reaches that stage, the MoH would need to move to the second phase where it is “no longer about containing the virus, but reducing the infections as what China did”.

Dr Sazaly said it would not be fair to put all the responsibilities on MoH as every member of the public and organisation must play their role to fight the outbreak.

“Everyone and each institution must prepare their organisations to fight the outbreak. It would be a mistake if a leader does not take heed to protect the organisation.

Organisations in Malaysia should have also prepared for business continuity a month ago,” Sazaly said.

He said while everyone should be responsible and not create public panic, a complacent attitude cannot be tolerated.

Teachers and captains of the industries, for instance, need to be prepared with knowledge on how to handle and protect themselves and the people around them against the virus.

Events Cancelled

Many event management companies have started to either cancel or postpone programmes which involve heavy crowds in the wake of the continuous spread of Covid-19.

The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, which was scheduled for March 19 to March 22, has been postponed indefinitely.

According to a statement yesterday, organiser AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd and co-organiser Putrajaya Corp had jointly decided to postpone the four-day event to prioritise the health and safety of the members of the public, pilots, vendors and suppliers, staff members and their families.

The annual event, held since 2009, was expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors this year with more than 25 hot air balloons from 13 different participating countries.

“However, after extensive and care ful consideration, the current global Covid-19 outbreak has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the event, alongside the increasing uncertainty of cross-border movement of visitors, pilots and staff,” AKA Balloon CEO Nur Izzati Khairudin said in the statement, adding that the company would provide refunds to participants.

The 17th edition of Powerman Malaysia, slated for March 14 (Saturday) and March 15 (Sunday) at Dataran Putrajaya, has also been called off.

The organiser said Asia’s largest duathlon event will be rescheduled as soon as possible, with all race entries remaining valid.

“As a mass participation event, we have received direct advice from the MoH to postpone Powerman Malaysia 2020,” race director Jerry Chew said in a statement.

An economic forum by the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (Insap) was also cancelled last Friday after the event venue, Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur, had to be sanitised after a previous event participant at the building tested positive for Covid-19.

“Insap was informed just this morning that the hall we are using for the forum was used by the Bar Council of Malaysia for its AGM on Feb 27, 2020, in which one participant had been tested positive for Covid-19. Sanitisation of all areas exposed are underway,” the statement said.

The half-day forum, themed “Malaysian Economy in 2020: Making Growth Seen & Felt Beyond GDP Numbers”, was supposed to be attended by World Bank senior economist Dr Kenneth Simler, Malaysian Retail Chain Association president Datuk Seri Garry Chua and economist Prof Dr Hoo Ke Ping as the panellists, among others.

“We will look into holding this forum again under a more favourable environment,” Insap said.

The National Water Services Commission has also called off its Water is Life Run 2020 that was scheduled on April 11.

In a Facebook posting, the commission said considering the safety and health of the runners and crew, the event will be postponed to a later date.

Last Friday, Thailand authorities cancelled one of its biggest national festivals, the Songkran water festival, which was scheduled to be held in mid-April.

Some political roadshows and running events are believed to still be taking place this week. Unicorn Fun Run Finale 2020 in Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang, Selangor, is still on at press time.