Malaysia to loosen Covid-19 lockdown curbs, PM says in May Day speech – dpa international

Barista at work in Kuala Lumpur café during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Starting May 4, Malaysia will wind back restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday. Acknowledging that curbs imposed since mid-March were hurting commerce, Muhyiddin said during a Labour Day speech that “we must find ways to balance between healing the nation’s economy and addressing Covid-19.” A total of 6,002 people in Malaysia have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 102 people dying in thr country and more than 230,000 people globally. Almost 70 per cent of people who tested positive in Malaysia have recovered, according to Ministry of Health data, with new case numbers dropping to an average of 57 a day over the past 10 days.

Pandemic pummels Malaysia’s vital but controversial palm oil trade – dpa international

A handful of people outdoors in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Palm oil exports from Malaysia, the world’s second-biggest supplier, dropped by 41.7 per cent year-on-year during the month up to April 14, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali said on Thursday. The month coincided with the imposition of a lockdown aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 102 people and resulted in 6,002 infections in the country. Malaysia is expected to suffer a 2 per cent fall in GDP in 2020 due to the virus. The lockdown, which has run since March 18, has forced many businesses to close, though the palm oil sector is operating. A vital export commodity, palm oil and related products made up 3.9 per cent of Malaysia’s total goods sold overseas in 2019.

No raging against the machine as guitar icon hails Malaysian cover – dpa international

A light rail train on the move pver a Kuala Lumpur street left empty by Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian father-daughter duet cover of “Killing In The Name,” a 1992 Rage Against The Machine moshpit churner with an instantly-recognizable riff and bass line, has been given a thumbs-up by Tom Morello, the guitar virtuoso who composed the tune. Morello posted the clip on his Instagram account – which has over 1.1 million followers – early on Wednesday, dubbing it “Quite possibly the hardest cover of this song ever.” The original Youtube clip of the cover – which was posted by Ujang Ijon and featured him plucking on an acoustic guitar while daughter Audrey piped some of the song’s lyrics into the camera – had garnered 113,000 views at time of writing.

Malaysia recovering from coronavirus, health ministry believes – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health announced 31 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase since March 12 and a tally that prompted a leading health official to suggest the country is “entering the recovery phase.” Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said that Malaysia is on track to emulate neighbouring Thailand, which has a population more than twice as big, by seeing new cases drop to below 10 by next week. Malaysia has “succeeded in flattening the curve,” Hisham said during a press conference, adding that he believes that the country’s Movement Control Order, the official name for a lockdown imposed on March 18, is working. Malaysia’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 stand at 5,851, just over a third of smaller neighbour Singapore’s total, while 100 people have died in the country after being infected. Almost 70 per cent of the total infected in Malaysia have recovered, according to the Ministry of Health. Despite the drop in daily new cases to an average of 53 over the past week, the government has extended the lockdown to May 12. “Let’s stay disciplined and deal with it now for our own convenience in the future,” Defence Minister Ismail Sabri said during a separate Tuesday press conference, arguing that is preferable to retain the lockdown rather than have to re-impose it should infection numbers rise again.

Malaysian government criticized for blocking Rohingya refugees – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government is facing domestic censure for turning back 200 Rohingya refugees who sought to enter the country during the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the Malaysian Bar Council, a lawyers’ organization, said it was “deeply disheartened” by the government’s refusal to allow a boatload of Rohingya disembark at Langkawi, a Malaysian island, on February 16, describing the pushback as a violation of international legal norms against turning away refugees.  On Thursday, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged authorities to allow refugee boats to dock. The Rohingya are a minority Muslim ethnic group that has been subjected to what the United Nations describes as “genocide” at the hands of the military in Myanmar, their home country.

Malaysia to extend Covid-19 lockdown even as infection numbers decline – dpa international

Not much traffic on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, six weeks into a lockdown which is slowing the spread of the new coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — During a televised speech on Thursday night to mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that a lockdown aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until May 12. Although Malaysia’s new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, have dropped to well below 100 a day over the past week – and recoveries among the infected have risen to 63 per cent of the 5,603 confirmed total – Muhyiddin did not rule out extending the restrictions beyond mid-May. “You may not be able to celebrate Hari Raya (the holiday marking the end of Ramadan) in your kampung (village),” the prime minister warned. The lockdown, known officially as a Movement Control Order, was first imposed on March 18 and has now been extended into a fourth two-week phase.

Asia’s economic growth to halt for first time since 1960s – dpa international

Evening traffic in Kuala Lumpur before the pandemic (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes Asia’s fast-growing economies will “come to a standstill” due to the coronavirus pandemic, faring worse than during the 2008-9 global financial crisis or the 1997-98 Asian crash. The region will experience zero growth for the first time since the 1960s, said Chang Yong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, who forecast that the economic impact of the pandemic will be “severe, across the board, and unprecedented.” Speaking during a press conference live-streamed from Washington, Rhee said Asia faces “a crisis like no other” due to the pandemic, which has killed over 136,000 people worldwide and prompted governments to impose lockdowns that have hampered commerce. “Containment measures are severely affecting economies,” Rhee said.

Malaysia’s daily increase in coronavirus cases drops below 100 – dpa international

Empty streets in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's Covid-19 lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that new cases of Covid-19 dropped below 100 for the first day since March 14. Eighty-five new cases of Covid-19 were reported by the ministry, taking Malaysia’s total to 5,072. Eighty-three people have died in the country after being infected. After 169 people who had previously contracted Covid-19 were discharged from hospital on Wednesday, Malaysia’s total recoveries increased to 2,647, or 52 per cent of all Covid-19 cases reported since the first positive diagnosis on January 25.

US returns 300 million dollars linked to Malaysian corruption scandal – dpa international

DSC_0134.jpeg April 17, 2020 321 KB 600 by 420 pixels Edit Image Delete Permanently Alt Text Describe the purpose of the image(opens in a new tab). Leave empty if the image is purely decorative.Title DSC_0134 Caption Najib Razak, then Malaysian prime minister, at the 2015 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 (Simon Roughneen) Description

KUALA LUMPUR — The United States has repatriated another 300 million dollars stolen from the corruption-stained Malaysian state development fund known as 1MDB, authorities said on Wednesday. In total, 620 million dollars has been returned to Malaysia, money the US Justice Department said was laundered through financial institutions in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg. The money is part of 4.5 billion dollars that the department has described as “allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates.” Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who was stopped by police from fleeing the country after losing 2018 elections, is embroiled in the scandal.

Half of Malaysia’s coronavirus patients have recovered, ministry says – dpa international

A deserted pedestrian walkway in Kuala Lumpur during the Malaysia's Covid-19 lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR —  Data released by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday shows that 49.7 per cent of the 4,987 people who contracted Covid-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus, have now recovered. While 170 new cases of the disease were diagnosed over the previous 24 hours, 202 people were discharged from hospital during the same time frame, Health Ministry director general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press conference. “Perhaps we managed to flatten [the rise in case numbers],” said Hisham. Since last week, daily recoveries or hospital discharges of people previously diagnosed with Covid-19 have mostly exceeded new cases.