GEORGE TOWN, April 20 — Penang is well heading towards becoming a green zone with its low number of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and high recovery rate, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.
Echoing Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah that Penang, along with neighbouring states, Kedah and Perlis, are heading towards being green zones, he said Penang has also consistently recorded the second lowest Covid-19 cases per capita in the country.
“Thanks to the dedication of our medical frontliners, we have a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent, nearly twice of the national figure,” he said in his opening remarks during an online roundtable session titled “Digital Penang PLC19 eCrowdSource: Hacking the Next Normal Roundtable”.
He said Penang has been able to do relatively well due to the joint efforts from all parties, which includes the federal, state and local governments as well as the people of Penang.
He said this positive outcome in Penang was despite the state becoming the target of vicious attacks and criticisms during the first phase of the movement control order (MCO) when videos and images of crowds in the Air Itam markets were widely shared on social media.
“Some even said that the state government was doing nothing to deal with the situation, which is not true. I do not think those attacks were fair,” he said.
He said Malaysians, in general, were not familiar with the MCO situation in the first two weeks of the first phase so they needed time to get used to it.
“Almost a month later, when Singapore launched the Circuit Breaker, we saw the same thing happening in our neighbouring country,” he pointed out.
He said Penang had taken early steps to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic as early as March 5 to cancel the annual Ysoakoi Festival which would have attracted thousands of people.
By March 11, the state government has already issued a directive to suspend all events which involved public gatherings.
“On 16 March, even before the announcement of the MCO, the Penang State Government had launched the ‘Penang Lawan Covid-19’ campaign,” he said.
He said Penang's strategy can be summarised into 3Cs; control of the epidemic, communication to the public and containing the impacts of the disease.
While the immediate impact of the epidemic is on health, Chow said the second impact will be on the economy which has affected everyone.
He reiterated the state's plans to roll out “Penang Next Normal Strategy” to address the new situation created by the pandemic.
“I believe that we will survive this so-called new normal,” he said.
He said Malaysians and Penangites must be empowered to continue to pursue their aspirations in spite of the new challenges.
“We acted early before MCO, and now, before the MCO ends, we want to take early actions as well to ensure that Penang is ready when we re-open,” he said.
He said this was the reason behind the virtual round table to discuss hacking the next normal where over 200 participants consisting of engineers, coders, system analysts, designers and technologists took part online.
He said Penang, as a technological hub in Malaysia, aimed to provide a conducive ecosystem for people to learn, develop and utilise technology just like how the state administration and its city councils have turned to technological solutions during the MCO.
Chow's team was the first to use Facebook live to replace his daily press conferences so that he could broadcast his messages to the public in a cost-effective manner while both city councils used WhatsApp and Google Form to obtain data from hawkers in order to channel aid from the state government.
He pointed out that the city councils also started e-commerce platforms for hawkers and petty traders while the Penang Lawan Covid-19 communication campaign utilises traditional and new media to reach out.
“The crisis has provided us with an excellent opportunity to rethink how we do things,” he said.
He said technology is now readily available for all to use to cope with new challenges and hoped more virtual round table sessions can be held to spearhead Penang and Malaysian to survive the “next normal” and to thrive in it.