Malaysia's Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned that the third wave of COVID-19 infections in Malaysia is possible if the public fails to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOP).

In his daily COVID-19 press conference yesterday, he pointed out that the country recorded an additional 120 cases between 19 July and 25 July, along with the emergence of new clusters, NST reported.

"The new clusters are like burning embers and those who do not follow the SOP are akin to fuel," he said, adding that the combination of the new clusters and people who flout the SOP will lead to an exponential spike in cases.

Urging the public to adhere with the SOP, he said: "In the early stage, we can still control these 'burning embers' from mixing with this 'fuel'. We can do so by wearing a face mask and by practicing social distancing, which have been proven to break the COVID-19 chain by 60% and 65%, respectively.

"Practice these measures to protect ourselves from being infected. During the Recovery Movement Control Order, the Health Ministry allowed Malaysians to return to daily life on condition that they adhere to the SOP. If they fail to do so, it is not impossible to have a third wave."

Dr Noor Hisham also gave an update on the issue of imported cases, raising concerns about the rising number of infections in other countries. 

He said that the Health Ministry was looking into testing airline passengers who use Malaysia or the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as a transit point. 

Citing the case of a student who infected two passengers who sat next to him when he flew from Melbourne, Australia, to Kuching, with transit at KLIA, he said that the ministry will talk to airline companies on implementing new measures.

"We will discuss the matter with airline companies. Maybe one condition (we could look into) is to have a passenger take a Covid-19 test before they board the plane. If we can implement that, it will prevent positive cases to board the flight," he said, adding that the screening costs are to be borne by the passengers. 

Earlier, it was reported that of the 108 passengers who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Cambodia, 55 had used Malaysia as a transit point. The remaining transited in Indonesia. As a result, starting 1 August, the Cambodian government has implemented a temporary ban on all flights from Malaysia to curb the spread of COVID-19.

When asked for a comment on the issue, he said: "We have an understanding with our counterpart, if the cases were infected in Malaysia, Cambodian authorities will contact us for verification. All cases were transiting at KLIA before flying to Cambodia. They were from countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt."


Singapore's PM Lee warns that some industries will not return to what they were before

Meanwhile, across the causeway in Singapore, in his speech at the Swearing-in Ceremony yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed imminent challenges as well as how his new Cabinet plans to steer Singapore through the storm and into the future. 

While the four budgets have kept companies afloat and minimised retrenchments so far, economic conditions will continue to be difficult and more jobs are expected to be lost. PM Lee promised that the government will do its best to save as many jobs as it can and help retrenched workers find new work. To this end, the National Jobs Council is urgently working with the unions, business associations and government agencies. 

As he addressed the specific challenges sectors face, he said that while the government is supporting these sectors, we must be prepared that some industries will not return to what they were before.

When that happens, the government, and businesses, will face difficult choices. 

He said: "We cannot afford to prop up failing industries indefinitely or trap workers in jobs that are no longer viable. The better, long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs. Then we can help firms in declining industries to reinvent themselves or pivot to other fields of business.

"We will also help workers in these industries reskill for the new jobs created. We were already doing this even before COVID-19, through SkillsFuture. But now the urgency is greater, and we must redouble our efforts."

The PM shared that as Singapore gradually restore economic activity, re-opens borders, and as people resume their lives, the country is also building up its capabilities to test and contact trace, so that new outbreaks can be identified and stamped out quickly.

"But each one of us still needs to play our own part, stay vigilant, practise safe distancing and minimise social interactions. That is how we can protect the health and the lives of our loved ones, especially our elderly," he said. 

Looking forward, the government aims to be ready for the post-COVID-19 world. It looks to not only survive the storm, but also to set the long-term direction for the country. 

"We must keep on improving Singapore, year after year, generation after generation. Thus, we must press on with transforming our economy and upgrading our skills, working with our tripartite partners. This will help Singaporeans make the most of new opportunities, cope with new uncertainties, and improve their lives," PM Lee said. 

He added that beyond economic prosperity, the government aspires for Singapore to be a fair and just society, with opportunities for all.

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