Good morning, here's what you need to know today.
- Month-long school closure
- Govt to use RM5bil from National Trust Fund
- AstraZeneca for the elderly
Month-long school closure
Amid rising Covid-19 cases in schools, the Education Ministry outlined a plan that would see students kept at home for more than a month.
Students will go on their week-long Hari Raya break beginning May 7 and will then learn from home for two weeks, after which, their two-week long term break will begin.
In the meantime, selected schools are being closed on an ad-hoc basis whenever Covid-19 cases are detected. In Penang, 20 schools have been closed as well as six in Negeri Sembilan and 15 in Klang, Selangor.
According to the Health Ministry, 23,739 students aged 12 and below have been infected with Covid-19 this year.
In Kelantan, where Covid-19 cases are surging, a school dorm was converted into a quarantine centre, just for infected students.
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Govt to use RM5bil from National Trust Fund
The government detailed its plan to take from the National Trust Fund (Kwan) to spend on vaccines. It intends to use RM5 billion, around a quarter of the fund.
The fund, set up in 1988 to secure the country’s future development with contributions from Petronas, was reported to be at RM19.5 billion as of Dec 31, 2020.
Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the government cannot borrow more as was is already saddled with debt, including billions owed by 1MDB.
Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is facing trial for purportedly looting 1MDB, demanded to know what happened to the billions of ringgit recovered from assets allegedly purchased using stolen 1MDB funds.
Amid Putrajaya’s spending without parliamentary oversight, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan gave his assurance that the suspension of Parliament would be lifted at the right time.
Takiyuddin also maintained there are still checks and balances, citing the functions of the MACC, National Audit Department and Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
However, PAC chairperson Wong Kah Woh disputed this. He pointed out that PAC was instructed to halt proceedings while Parliament was suspended.
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AstraZeneca for the elderly
With the arrival of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine last Saturday, it is facing increased scrutiny as its deployment is now imminent.
Previously, other countries had reported blood clot concerns. The Health Ministry addressed this yesterday and said it will be used on those aged 60 or older.
The policy is consistent with what other countries have undertaken to manage the risk. France, Finland and Germany have all limited the AstraZeneca vaccine to older recipients.
European regulators found the AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to rare incidents of blood clots and when they do happen, usually involved younger recipients.
Putrajaya will only decide on its use for younger recipients when more data is available. There are two approved alternatives: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines.
The government is also waiting for data on adolescents. Under 18-year-olds are not included in the Covid-19 vaccination plan for now.
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A daily glance at Covid-19
- 2,776 new cases and 13 deaths yesterday (April 26).
- The number of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) broke 300, the first time since Feb 6.
- Almost half of the new deaths (six of 13) were from Sarawak, where healthcare access is uneven. It was the third consecutive day of double-digit deaths. Deaths tend to rise with the number of ICU patients, suggesting more may follow.
- For trends on daily cases, tests, hospital beds capacity, vaccination progress and more, follow our Covid-19 tracker.
What else is happening?
- Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin finally responded to claims of menstrual period checks in school - and he said an investigation showed there was no indication these checks existed.
- The Pahang palace revoked the "Datuk Seri" title of Nicky Liow, an underworld leader who is on the run from the police.
- Police recorded the statement of a teacher who allegedly made rape jokes to his student.
- Cops dropped their plan to remand a group of Tawau protesters who were arrested after demonstrating against the purported lack of help and food while under a Covid-19 lockdown, allowing for their release.
- The High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau's bid to challenge the ban on his comic title, "Belt and Road Initiative for Win Winnism".
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