Early actions enable Penang to stay ahead


PENANG has taken early steps to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.


Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said that the state government acted early (even before the announcement of the movement control order) and now before the order ends, the state is working on early measures to ensure that Penang is ready, post-pandemic.


On March 5, Penang took steps to cancel the annual Yosakoi festival which would attract thousands of people to Penang when Malaysia was first alerted about the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak. On March 11, Penang issued a directive to suspend all events which involve public gathering.


The state government launched the Penang Lawan Covid-19 campaign on March 16, before the announcement of the movement control order (MCO).


Chow said the state’s strategy could be summarised into 3Cs – control the outbreak, communicate with the public and contain the impacts of the disease.


“I still remember that the state became the target of vicious attacks and criticisms during the first phase of the MCO. The crowd in Air Itam was pointed out by our critics.


“Images of people at the Air Itam market became national news and they were replayed on social media.


“Some even said that the state government was doing nothing to deal with the situation, which is untrue. I do not think those attacks were fair.


“Malaysians, in general, were unfamiliar with the new situation during the first two weeks of the MCO. People need to get used to it.


“When Singapore launched the Circuit Breaker almost a month later, we saw the same thing happening in our neighbouring country,” he told some 200 participants of the PLC19 eCrowdSource: Hacking the Next Normal roundtable this morning.


The virtual conference was hosted by Digital Penang. The participants consist of engineers, coders, system analysts and designers and technologists.


The conference was held to discuss how technological solutions can help Penang deal with the next normal.


Chow taking part in the virtual discussion in Komtar. With him are Sim (in dark blue) and Bharathi (far back, in white).


Chow also mentioned several other initiatives taken by the state address the pandemic.


“My team and I were the first to employ Facebook Live to replace our press conferences, allowing me to broadcast my regular messages to the public in a cost-effective manner.


“This allows journalists to cover my broadcast without having to be physically present. We take social distancing very seriously.


“Both city councils easily available technologies, such as WhatsApp and Google Forms to collect data from hawkers. The data enables the hawkers to receive cash transfer aid from the Penang government.


“The city councils also launched campaigns to encourage petty traders and hawkers to take part in E-commerce,” he said.


Chow said that the state’s Penang Lawan Covid-19 communications campaign utilised traditional and new media to reach out to the public.


“We are one of the few states with a dedicated website, Facebook page and Telegram channel for localised Covid-19 related messages,” he said.


Chow said that Penang is now rolling out its ‘Penang Next Normal Strategy’ to address the new situation faced by the state and Penangites due to the Covid-19 outbreak.


“The first and most immediate impact of the Covid-19 is on our health and lives. But we cannot deny the fact that the second impact, which is on our economy, will inevitably affect our lives too.


“Hence, we are rolling out this strategy to address this so-called new normal,” he said.


Chow addressing some 200 participants of the PLC19 eCrowdSource: Hacking the Next Normal roundtable.


Chow said that the crisis had provided the people with an opportunity to rethink how they do things.


“We are fortunate to live in a time when technology is readily available for us to cope with these new challenges,” he said.


Chow said that the state was doing relatively well – thanks to the cooperation between the Federal, state, local government and the people.


“According to the Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Penang, Kedah and Perlis are heading towards being Green Zones,” Chow added.


Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim, who also took part, said Penang had constantly recorded the second lowest Covid-19 cases per capita in the country.


“Thanks to the efforts of the frontliners, we have a recovery rate of over 80%,” he said.


Sim, however, said that there was still resistance on the practises of E-commerce among traders and consumers.


“There is a need to educate consumers and traders to help them adapt to this change,” he added.


Also present was Penang Chief Minister Incorporated head of department S. Bharathi.



Story by Christopher Tan

Pix by Alvie Cheng

Video by Adleena Rahayu Ahmad Radzi