When will the National Security Council revise outdated listing of Covid-19 “coloured zones” to take into account the 45% of the 4,683 Covid-19 cases which have recovered from the novel coronavirus infections?

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob led a U-turn when he announced yesterday that barber shops will be allowed to reopen only in "green zones" that are free from coronavirus infections.

There are only four green zones in Peninsular Malaysia, viz. Kampar in Perak, Yan in Kedah, Machang in Kelantan and Hulu Terengganu in Terengganu.

How many barbers are there in Kampar, Yan, Machang and Hulu Terengganu combined?

Yesterday, the deputy president of the Federal Territory and Selangor Indian Barbers Association, Akillan Anandakrishnan was quoted in a press report as saying that more than a thousand barber shops in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor had decided to stay closed until April 30 despite being allowed to operate from next week as they did not want to take health risks despite facing economic pressures.

Anandakrishnan is sorely mistaken as there is no green zone in either the Federal Territory or Selangor and none of the barber shops in these two territories were allowed to operate from next week.

All the four districts of Lembah Pantai (459 cases), Kepong (119 cases), Titiwangsa (112 cases) and Cheras (69 cases) in Kuala Lumpur are red zones, while in Selangor, six of the zones are red, two are orange and one yellow.

The six red zones in Selangor are Hulu Langat (378 cases), Petaling (335 cases), Klang (169 cases), Gombak (125 cases), Sepang (61 cases) and Hulu Selangor (45 cases). The two orange zones are Kuala Selangor (31 cases) and Kuala Langat (24 cases) and the sole yellow zone is Sabak Bernam (15 cases).

Probably for the first time since Malaysia was formed in 1963, Sarawak and Sabah are the greatest beneficiaries of a Federal Government scheme - as most of the green zones are in Sarawak and Sabah, with 17 of the 31 districts in Sarawak and eight of the 25 districts designated as “green” zones.

Sarawak has only two the red zone, namely the districts of Kuching (215 cases) and Samarahan (47 cases), while the rest 12 yellow zones and 17 green zones.

Sabah has only one red zone is Tawau (70 cases), with two orange zones Lahad Datu (38 cases) and Kota Kinabalu (35 cases) while the rest are 14 yellow zones and eight green zones.

Many questions beg for answer – but the most pressing is whether the National Security Council tasked with leading the nation in the invisible war against the Covid-19 pandemic is serious in wanting to win the multiple wars of information, health and economics in this battle.

First, are the policy makers in the NSC aware that there are only four green zones in Peninsular Malaysia, although Sarawak has 17 and Sabah eight green zones – but mostly in the interior?

Secondly, in imposing the condition that barber shops will be allowed to reopen only in green zones, are the NSC policy-makers aware that they are making a cruel joke in this period of grave economic stress for the barbers and hair stylists, as over 90 per cent of them would be excluded?

Thirdly, what is the rationale for the NSC to emplace barber shops and hair-style salons as an “essential service” when the majority of the economic activities in the country are frozen in the lockdown of the movement control order (MCO)?

Fourthly, are the NSC policy-makers aware that they have been relying on outdated data for their Covid-19 coloured zones, using cumulative Covid-19 cases instead of up-to-date data which take into account that 45% of the 4,683 Covid-19 cases have recovered from the coronavirus infections?

From the latest statistics, there are a total of 148 zones, 26 red, 15 orange, 78 yellow and 29 green. But these were based on the cumulative figures for Covid 19 cases, without taking account of the 45% of the 4,683 Covid-19 cases which had recovered from the novel coronavirus infections.

If the 45% of the 4,683 Covid-19 cases which had recovered from the novel coronavirus infections are taken into account, then there will be much fewer red and orange zones and more yellow and green zones.

When will the National Security Council revise the outdated listing of Covid-19 “coloured zones” to take into account the 45% of the 4,683 Covid-19 cases who have recovered from the novel coronavirus infections?

Malaysia has become the laughing stock in the world in our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Last week, I expressed my support for the proposal by the Prison’s Director-General, Zulkifli Omar that the courts should stop jailing people for violating the movement control order (MCO) because it would defeat the very purpose of the MCO to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus infections and to “flatten the curve”.

The country’s prisons are vastly overcrowded with 73,000 prisoners being housed in spaces intended to hold 52,000 inmates in the 50 prisons in the country which make social distancing impossible under these overcrowded conditions.

The Chief Justice, Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat responded most commendably with her advice to all judicial officers to consider the risk of spreading Covid-19 facing prisoners in the country when imposing sentences on violations of the MCO.

However, there seems to be another U-turn here.

It was only five days ago that the Federal police Internal Security and Public Order Department director Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abullah Sani responded to general concerns about jail sentences for MCO violaters which were inimical to “social distancing” objectives of the MCO and announced that the police would be fined RM1,000 in the first instance for violating the MCO.

Yesterday, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri seemed to be leaning towards custodial sentences for MCO violaters when he said that the RM1,000 fine was too low and that the police will no longer compromise with the MCO violaters.

In this connection, Ismail should explain whether the NSC had considered the proposal that the government should release prisoners in overcrowded prisons because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the outcome of such deliberations.

The Indonesian authorities are freeing 30,000 prisoners from prisons across the country in an effort to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus in jails - those who had served two-thirds of their sentences but does not include those convicted for corruption, terrorism, and drug-related crimes.

India has already released thousands of inmates, after the Supreme Court advised prisons to free those awaiting trial for crimes with punishments of seven years or less.

In the United Kingdom, thousands of lower risk prisoners at the end of their custodial sentence are being considered for early release, amid fears that a prison outbreak of COVID-19 could overwhelm local hospitals.

Will Ismail Sabry address this issue in his media conference today?

Ministers should stop making Malaysia the laughing stock of the world in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let Malaysia do something constructive and creative in the invisible global war against Covid-19 which could be the examples for other countries to follow.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri