Penang on track to becoming Covid-19 green zone

GEORGE TOWN (NST): With a relatively low number of Covid-19 cases and a high recovery rate from the disease, Penang is heading towards becoming a green zone, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.

He said Penang has consistently recorded the second-lowest Covid-19 cases per capita in the country.

Thanking the dedication of medical frontliners, he said the state has a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent, nearly twice that of the national figure.

“With the joint efforts of all, which includes the federal, state and local governments, as well as the people of Penang, we have managed to do relatively well.

“Today, as stated by the Health director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Penang, along with Kedah and Perlis, are heading towards becoming green zones. This is despite Penang being the target of vicious attacks and criticism during the first phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO),” he said in his opening remarks at the “Digital Penang PLC19 eCrowdSource: Hacking the Next Normal Roundtable” here, today.

Chow said the Covid-19 epidemic has created a new situation that most are unfamiliar with.

“Penang took early steps to deal with this crisis. As early as March 5, when Malaysia was first alerted about the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, we took steps to advise the cancellation of the annual Yosakoi festival, which usually attracts thousands of people. By March 11, we issued a directive to suspend all events which involve public gatherings.

“On March 16, even before the announcement of the MCO, we launched the ‘Penang Lawan Covid-19’ campaign. Our strategy can be summarised into 3Cs – Control of the epidemic, Communication to the public, and Containing the impacts of the disease,” he said.

Chow said although the first and most immediate impact of the epidemic is on the people’s health and lives, it is undeniable that the second impact is on the economy.

Hence, he added, the state government rolled out the “Penang Next Normal Strategy” to address the new situation.

“I believe that we will survive this so-called new normal. Nevertheless, as a state and as a country, we must not only survive, we must aim to thrive. We must empower the citizens of Penang and Malaysia to continue pursuing their aspirations in spite of the new challenges we may face.

“We acted early before the 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.

Chow said over 200 participants, consisting of engineers, coders, system analysts and designers, technologists and perhaps even geeks in general, convened over the internet to discuss how technological solutions could help Penang deal with the new normal.

He noted that Penang has been a technological hub in Malaysia for years.

“Whether through our SMEs or new start-ups, particularly our Penang Science Cluster, we aim to provide a conducive ecosystem for people to learn technology, think about technology, develop technology and definitely utilise technology.

“I am proud to say that young engineers affiliated with the Penang Science Clusters, re-engineered face shields together with doctors in the frontline and successfully produced better and cheaper version of the gear,” he added.

Chow said his team was also the first to employ Facebook Live to replace press conferences, allowing him to broadcast his regular messages to the public in a cost effective manner, and allowing journalists to cover his broadcast without having to be physically present.

Both city councils, he pointed out, also utilised easily available technologies such as WhatsApp and Google Form to solicit data from hawkers to enable them to receive cash transfer aid from the state government.

The city councils also launched campaigns encouraging hawkers and petty traders to participate in e-commerce.

He said the Penang Lawan Covid-19 communication campaign also utilised traditional and new media to reach out to the public. It is one of the few states with a dedicated website, Facebook page and Telegram channel used to disseminate localised Covid-19 related messages.

“All these are just the tip of the iceberg. This crisis has provided us with an excellent opportunity to rethink how we do things. We are, of course, fortunate to live in a time when technology is readily available for us to cope with all these new challenges,” he stressed.

Source: NST Online