MELBOURNE: Hundreds of thousands of people across Melbourne's north and west were ordered to stay at home on Tuesday as Australia's second-biggest city struggled to contain a spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases.
The southern state of Victoria has recorded 233 Covid-19 cases since Thursday – mostly in Melbourne – a major surge in a country that has otherwise successfully curbed the spread of the virus.
State premier Daniel Andrews said more than 30 Melbourne neighbourhoods would be subject to the lockdown from midnight local time on Wednesday until July 29.
The areas covered are home to more than 300,000 people, in the city of roughly five million.
Residents will be allowed to leave their homes only for work or school, to exercise, or to buy food and other essential items.
People from other areas will be prevented from entering the worst-affected communities, with police on patrol and officers stopping cars to conduct random checks.
Many businesses will have to close down just weeks after reopening.
"These are extraordinary steps," Andrews said.
"But such is the nature of this virus, it is so wildly infectious that if we don't take these steps now we will finish up in a situation that rather than locking down ten postcodes we will be locking down every postcode," he added.
"I don't want to get to that point."
Andrews said he had asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to divert international flights bound for Melbourne to other cities in Australia in a further effort to control the spread of the virus.
Genomic sequencing showed that a "significant number" of the new cases were linked to staff breaching infection-control protocols in hotels that are being used to quarantine Australians returning from overseas, Andrews added.
Hundreds of health workers and military personnel have been drafted from around the country to assist with the efforts to curb the virus.
Officials have been door-knocking in the worst-affected communities, urging residents to get tested for Covid-19.
Australia has recorded about 7,800 coronavirus cases and 104 deaths in a population of 25 million.
Several Australian regions are believed to be effectively virus-free, allowing states to continue rolling back restrictions first introduced in late March.
Victoria, which had curbed the virus through early restrictions on travel and gatherings, had been easing rules until the flare-up last week.
That prompted neighbouring South Australia state on Tuesday to postpone plans to open its border to Victorians.
Queensland announced on Tuesday it would reopen its borders from July 10 to all Australians, except those who had visited Victoria within the past 14 days.
New South Wales has warned residents against visiting the virus "hot spots." - AFP
PETALING JAYA: Expatriates in the Employment Pass 1 (EP) category are now allowed to enter the country without applying for approval from the Immigration Department, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
The Senior Minister said those who have the professional visit or resident pass talent passes and hold senior management posts in companies in Malaysia would be allowed to enter the country with immediate effect.
However, the expatriates would still need to undergo swab tests in their home countries before coming to Malaysia or undergo a Covid-19 test once they were here, he said.
"If the test is negative, they need not undergo the 14-days compulsory home quarantine.
"However, this is only for those who come from countries in the green zone.
"If they are from countries in the red zone, then they must undergo the 14-day quarantine process," he said in a press conference on Friday (June 19).
Ismail said some of the green zone countries were Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia.
However, he said the government was waiting for the Health Ministry to announce the green zone countries.
He also said that those coming in must download the MySejahtera application, adding that technical specialists for specialised work, like repairing machines or ships, that cannot be done by locals were also allowed to come into the country.
Ismail said their entry to the country would be allowed as long as their working period is limited, they did not mingle with others and work in small groups or in closed areas.
He said these specialists would need to apply for a professional visit pass through the expatriate service division online.
They would also need to undergo a swab test in their home country or take one when they arrived here.
Similarly, they also need to download the MySejahtera application.
Source: The Star
SINGAPORE - Talks are underway with South Korea and Australia to establish "green lanes" for travel during the Covid-19 environment, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (May 30).
Singapore is also having such discussions with New Zealand and Malaysia, while China on Friday (May 29) became the first coumtry to establish a green lane with the Republic.
Such arrangements allow for the restoration of connectivity and facilitation of short-term essential business and official travel between countries, subject to safeguards against the coronavirus.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Saturday, Mr Chan said that there were several considerations that go into deciding which countries to enter into such agreements with.
"Reciprocal green lane agreements means there must be mutual assurance of each other's test protocol and standards," he said.
He explained that a situation where there is no such trust and "everybody does their own thing", with each country insisting on testing travelers for the virus as well as giving them a 14 day quarantine, would be essentially unworkable.
This is because aside from having to undergo two tests, travelers would have to be quarantined for almost an entire month in order to travel from one place to another.
So for a green lane arrangement to work, both countries would have to first have confidence in each other's safeguards and be able to coordinate their quarantine orders so that travelers might only need to be tested or quarantined once.
Aside from discussing necessary protocols, there is also a need to look at the health situation in each country to see when these protocols can safely be deployed.
Mr Chan added that Singapore is in simultaneous discussions with as many countries as possible on forming green lanes, and that such discussions are taking place at a bilateral level, not a multilateral one.
"We are happy that we have been able to swiftly work on arrangements with China, and we hope to make progress with the rest of the countries," he said.
Mr Chan was also asked how the United States' decision to end its preferential treatment of Hong Kong would affect Singapore.
He said: "We don't yet have all the details about what the US intends to do... so I won't be able to comment on that. We're closely monitoring the situation and when we have more details from the US side, then we'll be able to make an assessment. We wish Hong Kong well and we hope that they can continue to do well as one of the business hubs in East Asia."
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The Malaysian High Commission in Australia has advised Malaysians in the country not to go home in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The High Commission, in a statement on Friday (April 10), said the government had decided that Malaysians should stay put in Australia.
"However, those with short-term visas and students who have financial difficulties and are not be able to sustain an extended stay in Australia may return home via available commercial flights.
"Malaysians in Australia should keep safe and healthy, (and) update themselves with all regulations in place by the Australian government in the state they are residing, as different states have taken different measures to deal with the pandemic.
"This includes the requirements for quarantine, social distancing and restricted social gatherings, ” said the High Commission in a statement to Bernama.
The High Commission said since the announcement of the movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia on March 18, they have received calls from Malaysians about available flight options to return to home due to flight cancellations and other issues affecting their stay in Australia.
It said it had received enquiries on accommodation-related issues from 32 Malaysians and three students.
The statement said there are Malaysians flying back to Malaysia almost every day despite the few commercial flights from major cities in Australia.
"The numbers vary every day based... However, we understand that there are Malaysians who have decided to extend their stay in Australia until the outbreak subsides.
"We advise all Malaysians in Australia to remain calm and vigilant. They should not hastily decide to return home thinking that it is safer in Malaysia, ” it added.
The High Commission also expressed its sincere gratitude to the Australian government and state authorities for giving full support to ensuring those who want to return home are able to do so with minimal restrictions and difficulties – Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) encourages small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to leverage its eTRADE programme to reach out to international markets in view of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Matrade said the programme is an initiative to provide SMEs access to global markets through participation in leading international e-marketplaces.
“SMEs can submit their application online via Matrade’s website, and successful applicants will receive assistance for subscription fee, advisory services as well as coaching/online assistance for on-boarding in the chosen Business-to-Business (B2B)/Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-marketplaces.
“Under this programme, Matrade has collaborated with 20 e-marketplaces to provide SMEs a choice of e-marketplaces that suit their business plan,” it said.
The e-marketplaces include Alibaba, eBay, Amazon, HalalStreet, eRomman, TradeIndia, Tmall Global and JD.com, as well as local e-marketplaces such as BuyMalaysia, DagangHalal, MineBisz and AVANA.
Matrade said since the programme’s inception, over 3,500 applications have been approved and a majority have benefited in terms of increased business opportunities from the numerous enquiries received globally, besides enhancing their technical know-how in doing online business.
SMEs have also managed to increase their export revenue and penetrated new markets such as China, Cambodia, Japan, Australia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Matrade chief executive officer, Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa said the national trade promotion agency is undertaking a robust promotional effort to encourage more Malaysian companies to establish their online presence via various e-marketplaces, alongside their traditional channels.
“Digital selling through an online platform has become an alternative channel to grow export revenue as well as acquiring new customers globally.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a preferred mode of purchase as it bypasses the need for physical face-to-face interaction between buyers and sellers,” he added.
Additionally, Malaysian companies could continue to have access to enquiries from international buyers by leveraging the national trade promotion agency’s trade leads, which are available at MyExport, an online service for Malaysian exporters registered with Matrade.
These trade leads are a compilation of enquiries received by Matrade’s offices around the world from foreign importers who are interested to source for Malaysian products and services.
Since the Movement Control Order came into effect on March 18, Matrade received a total of 239 trade leads in sectors including food and beverages, medical devices and pharmaceutical products, automotive, furniture, chemicals, electrical and electronics, optical and scientific products, and construction services. — Bernama
Source: Malay Mail
SEPANG: Malaysia Airlines is reinstating some of its international flights from April to May for those who were not able to return to their loved ones due to travel restrictions in many parts of the world.
The national carrier’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Captain Izham Ismail said many customers from Malaysians to foreigners had reached out to their global offices requesting for flights mostly between Kuala Lumpur and Australia, KL - New Zealand as well KL - London.
“Being a network carrier, Malaysia Airlines is able to maintain connectivity and bring our customers direct or closest to their intended destination. And being Malaysia’s national carrier, it is our duty to ensure accessibility for Malaysia domestically and internationally during these difficult times,” he said in a statement, here, today.
Izham said since the enactment of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines has had to reduce the frequency of its domestic flights.
It is running at minimum mostly to facilitate essential travels and cargo movement.
“Together with our sister airlines under the Malaysia Aviation Group, we support the Health Ministry (MoH) with dedicated belly space across our domestic and international network and on MABkargo's global freighter network for the transport of medical devices and supplies.
“Most recently we transported two tonnes of face masks and personal protection equipment from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu as well as 300,000 pieces of disposable masks, 50,000 pieces of protection suit and 8000 pieces of protection suit with eye mask courtesy of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur," added Izham.
He said that in the next few days, MABkargo will be flying in more than 10 million pieces of masks and ventilators from Shanghai and Guangzhou.
This is made possible by the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), the Transport Ministry and, Pharmaniaga Berhad, he informed.
He added that domestically, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly and MASwings will facilitate movement of goods as well as medical staff across Peninsular Malaysia, crossing between the peninsula to Sabah and Sarawak, as well as within the two East Malaysian states.
“The three airlines have also positioned standby aircraft at Subang Airport, KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and KKIA (Kota Kinabalu International Airport) to initiate rapid mobilisation of medical staff and professionals as well as other (non-Covid-19) patients to support MoH's capacity/resource management efforts across Malaysia."
Meanwhile, on the reinstated flights, it is as follows:
Kuala Lumpur - Auckland (MH145) - departure dates on April 3, 5, 10, 12,19, 26 as well as on May 3, 10,17. The returning Auckland - Kuala Lumpur (MH144) flight will take place on April 4, 6, 11, 13, 20, 27 as well as May 4, 11, 18.
Bookings on the Malaysia Airlines website for the flights will open from March 31, onwards.
Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne (MH149) - departure dates: April 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 22, 29 and May 6, 7, 13, 14. The returning Melbourne - Kuala Lumpur (MH148) flight will take-off on April 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 23, 30.
Kuala Lumpur - Sydney (MH123) - departure dates: April 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 28 as well as on May 5, 6,12, 13. The returning Sydney - Kuala Lumpur (MH122) flight will take-off on April 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 ,29.
The third Australian destination will see the Kuala Lumpur – Perth flight MH 126 depart on April 6, 13, 20, 27 and on May 4, 11, whereas the Perth - Kuala Lumpur returning flight MH127 will depart on April 7, 14, 21, 28 and May 5, 12.
The Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur - Sydney as well as the return flights from the two Australian destinations on April 1, 2 and 3 are bookable from March 30, with the rest of the flights bookable from March 31 onwards.
The Indonesia sector will see the Kuala Lumpur - Jakarta flight MH720 depart on April - 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and May 7, 14, whereas the Jakarta - Kuala Lumpu
r returning MH721 flight will take place on April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and May 7, 14.
The China sector will see the Kuala Lumpur - Guangzhou flight MH376 depart on April 6, 13, 20, 27, and May 4, 11, with the returning Guangzhou - Kuala Lumpur flight MH37, taking-off on April 6, 13, 20, 27 and May 4, 11.
The Jakarta and Guangzhou flights are available for booking on the Malaysia Airlines website from March 30, onwards.
Passengers looking for flights to return home on Malaysia Airlines may book their tickets on Malaysia Airlines’ official website at https://www.malaysiaairlines.com/my/en.html or via the Malaysia Airlines’ app with some departure dates available for booking from 30 March onwards.
Source: New Straits Time
PUTRAJAYA: The government has decided to extend the movement control order (MCO) for another two weeks until April 14, says the Prime Minister.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was given a briefing by the National Security Council and Health Ministry and the trend showed new Covid-19 positive cases had spiked.
"The trend is expected to continue for a while before we can see the number of new cases reported decline.
"The government is of the opinion that the movement control order should continue.
"In line with this, the government have decided to extend the MCO until April 14. I am informing you on the extension earlier so that the people can be prepared," he said
Muhyiddin said it was important to stop Covid-19 infections and the strategy can be a success if the people are not exposed to the virus through daily interactions.
As at noon Wednesday, 172 new Covid-19 positive cases were reported, bringing the cumulative cases to 1,796.
The Prime Minister noted that in the past week alone, 673 new cases were reported.
"The public must be.mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time," he said.
The Prime Minister said those who had left for their respective hometowns need not rush back to Kuala Lumpur or other cities at the end of this week.
Students who are scheduled to return to hostels also need not do so and offices that are closed need not resume operation.
"Please stay calm and don't panic. Even though we have extended the movement control order (MCO), you don't have to unnecessarily stock up on food because the supply is sufficient. I assure you that there is enough food for everybody.
"I know you feel burdened but I don't have a choice. I have to extend the MCO for your own safety," he said.
Australia’s parliament convenes Monday for a special sitting to pass stimulus measures to support the economy, including an additional A$66 billion ($38.2 billion) package aimed at averting recession and saving jobs.
A reduced number of lawmakers are meeting from 10 a.m. in Canberra, with the stimulus plans the only legislation on the agenda. The opposition Labor party has signaled its support, meaning they should become law this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced details of his government’s second package in a month, including payments of as much as A$100,000 to small businesses and charities totaling A$25.2 billion.
The government will also partially guarantee loans to support A$40 billion in lending to small and medium-sized firms. Unemployment benefits will double and the worst-hit workers will be allowed to access pension savings early.
The new measures dwarf an initial A$17.6 billion stimulus package announced on March 12. As the crisis continues and the economic impact becomes clearer, the government also expects to announce a third fiscal injection as Australia’s economy spirals toward its first recession since 1991.
“There will be more packages, there will be more support,” Morrison said at a press conference at the parliament. “We’ll be supercharging our safety net, we’ll be supporting our most vulnerable.”
All told -- including support for the banking system from Australia’s central bank -- some A$189 billion is being injected into the domestic economy in an unprecedented release of funds to get through the crisis. That’s the equivalent of about 10% of Australia’s gross domestic product.
Preparing the country for at least six months of hardship, Morrison said all non-essential travel in Australia should now be canceled. He urged the country to heed social-distancing advice and warned “more draconian” restrictions were on the way.
“The next few months are going to be a difficult journey,” Morrison said. “But we all have a role to play to adapt to the changes we’re facing, to cushion the impact of what is happening and to pull together so we can bounce back when we get to the other side.”
The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a record 0.25% on Thursday and will aim to keep three-year government bond yields at the same level. The central bank has also announced a term funding facility of at least A$90 billion for the banking system to support business credit. In a complementary program, the government is investing up to A$15 billion to help smaller lenders support consumers and businesses.
The new package announced Sunday will be available to businesses with revenue under A$50 million and also some not-for-profit charities. Firms will get 100% of the tax they withhold from their employees’ salary and wages, with a minimum payment of A$20,000 and maximum support of A$100,000.
The government will also guarantee 50% of loans taken out by firms affected by the outbreak, to be used for working capital.
For the next six months, those eligible to receive income support will receive an extra A$550 each fortnight, on top of their normal payment. The early release of pension savings will put as much as A$27 billion back into the pockets of working Australians.
Morrison, who has described the coronavirus as a “once in a 100-year type of event,” closed the nation’s borders to non-residents on Friday and has banned indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
Cases of coronavirus in Australia reached 1,098 as of 6.30 a.m. on March 22, up 224 from a day earlier.
After it adjourns this week, when parliament will sit again isn’t clear. On Friday, Morrison announced that the annual budget, originally due on May 12, is now scheduled for Oct. 6.
KUALA LUMPUR: The government has imposed a 14-day Movement Control Order from March 18 to 31 nationwide to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infection in Malaysia.
The Movement Control Order is imposed under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and well as the Police Act 1967, which cover a range of activities.
Speaking to the nation in a special address on Monday night, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the order will entail a ban on all mass gatherings for religious, sport, social and cultural activities.
In addition, all houses of worship and business premises will be closed, with the exception of supermarkets, public markets, and sundry and convenience shops which sell daily essentials.
Muhyiddin said for Muslims, all mosque and surau activities – including Friday prayers – will be suspended in accordance with a decision made by the Muzakarah Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs on Sunday.
All Malaysians will also be banned from travelling overseas during this 14-day period; while those recently returned from abroad must undergo health checks and self-quarantine for 14 days.
All foreign tourists will be banned from entering the country during this time.
Muhyiddin also announced the closure of all pre-schools, government and private schools including daily schools, residential schools, international schools, tahfiz centres and other primary, secondary and pre-university institutions.
All public and private institutions of higher learning and skills training institutions nationwide will also be shuttered for 14 days.
Muhyiddin added that all government and private sector premises will cease operating, with the exception of premises involved in the provision of essential services such as water, electricity, energy, telecommunications, post, transportation, irrigation, oil, gas, fuel and lubricants, broadcasting, finances, banking, health, pharmacies, fire and rescue, prisons, ports, airports, security, defence, public cleansing, retail and food supply.
“I realise that you, my brothers and sisters, may feel that this decision will make it difficult for you to go about your daily lives.
“But this move is necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19 which could claim the lives of Malaysians, as it has thousands of people in other countries.
“Drastic action should be taken immediately to prevent the spread of the disease by limiting the movement of the public. This is the only way we can prevent more people from being infected by the outbreaks that can destroy lives.
“I hope all of you can endure this challenge. Don't panic, don't worry, and stay calm. I believe that with this, we will be able to block the spread of this outbreak in the near future,” Muhyiddin said.
Rumours of an imminent lockdown saw Malaysians engage in panic-buying nationwide today, leaving supermarket shelves bare of everything from toilet paper to canned goods.
Source: New Straits Times
Australia unveiled a A$17.6 billion ($11.4 billion) fiscal stimulus package geared toward the second quarter as it tries to buttress the economy from the coronavirus outbreak that threatens to end an almost 30-year recession-free run.
The program announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison Thursday includes A$1.3 billion to safeguard the jobs of 120,000 apprentices and one-off cash payments to welfare recipients and lower-income households. The government will also spend A$6.7 billion to support the cash flow of small- and medium-sized firms to allow them to keep paying wages during the expected downturn.
Morrison also announced the government will expand a tax write-off program with an additional A$700 million over four years to help businesses invest in new equipment.
“This plan is about keeping Australians in jobs,” he told reporters in the courtyard outside his Parliament House office in Canberra. “This plan is about ensuring the Australian economy bounces back stronger on the other side and the budget bounces back with it.”
The announcement sets up a fiscal-monetary injection for the economy after the Reserve Bank cut interest rates last week and is expected to do so again next month. Morrison joins international counterparts in opening the fiscal spigots to fight the economic impact of the coronavirus that shut down China and has since spread to other nations.
More than $84 billion in worldwide budget support has already been pledged or is under consideration, with governments adopting a mix of cash handouts, tax breaks and transfers.
Announced stimulus measures include:
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said modeling showed that A$11 billion of the package to be delivered by June 30 could add up to 1.5% to second-quarter growth. With the first quarter almost a write-off from the dual hit of wildfires and the coronavirus, the government is trying to avoid a second-straight quarterly contraction that would result in the first recession since 1991.
But Frydenberg acknowledged it was unclear how the virus would evolve.
Morrison estimated the package at 1.2% of gross domestic product. It follows the central bank’s March 3 cut that kicked off easing by counterparts including the Federal Reserve, Bank of Canada and Bank of England.
The coronavirus has slammed Australia’s tourism and education sectors, which are expected to cut 0.5 percentage point from GDP in the first quarter. Government revenue is set to slide as firms’ profits plummet and commodity prices decline.
The economic hit comes on top of a summer of devastating wildfires that were already expected to crimp growth.
Markets have been volatile in recent weeks as investors try to price the risk of the economic fallout. Australia’s benchmark stock index fell as much 5.8% at 1p.m. Sydney time Thursday, slumping deeper into a bear market.
Australia had 112 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday morning local time; actor Tom Hanks, who is in the nation to work on a movie, on Thursday revealed he and his wife had tested positive for the virus.
Morrison announced Wednesday that his government will open as many as 100 pop-up clinics to test for the virus as part of a $1.6 billion health package. Worldwide, more than 124,000 people are infected and fatalities stand at more then 4,600.
The stimulus package suggests the government is all but certain to fail to return the budget to its promised surplus. Morrison said the measures don’t extend beyond June 30 next year as he tries to avoid the “fiscal hangover” that dogged Australia’s response to the 2008-09 crisis.
The then-Labor government won international plaudits for its fiscal response that included cash payments to households and programs to improve infrastructure at schools and insulation of housing. But the rushed nature of the response resulted in elements being bungled, including checks being sent to dead people, and the budget was thrown into deficit for years.
S&P Global Ratings said Wednesday Australia’s AAA rating will remain intact despite the fiscal slippage, while joining Bloomberg Economics in forecasting the economy would nonetheless fall into a recession.
Morrison’s reputation was tarnished during summer wildfires that engulfed the nation’s east coast amid heavy criticism of his performance, and his Liberal-National coalition government now trails the main opposition Labor party in opinion polls.
The stimulus announced Thursday may help win back the electorate’s trust.
News & Events
Adv & Sponsor
Not a member? Join us
Malaysia Australia Business Council (MABC)
C-26-3A, 3 Two Square,
No 2 Jalan 19/1 46300 Petaling Jaya,
Tel: +603 7960 9490
Fax: +603 7960 9489