190 new cases recorded, bringing total number to 428

Malaysia has its biggest jump in new Covid-19 cases as 190 were recorded on Sunday (March 15). This brings the total number of cases in the country to 428, said the Health Ministry. Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said most of the new cases were related to the tabligh programme in Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling, held from Feb 27 to March 1. “We urge those who participated in the programme to contact the nearest district health office for further instructions,” he said. Dr Adham said that of the 428 cases in the country, nine patients were in the intensive care unit (ICU) and needed respiratory assistance. Meanwhile, seven individuals have been discharged from the Sungai Buloh Hospital. 42 Covid-19 patients in the country have so far recovered. (The Star Online)

Rental rates hold on as bearish pressures build

Rental rates on residential properties remains steady in the first three months of this year despite a weaker economic environment and bearish capital markets. MIEA resident-elect Chan Ai Cheng said the ability to maintain rental rates is generally the preferred option among homeowners during unpredictable economic situations. For commercial properties, Chan said rental rates for offices depend very much on the location. While new offices in prime locations continue to see growth in rental rates, she said, commercial units in second-tier locations are seeing some adjustments. Generally, she said, people predict the outlook for the property market by looking at the performance of the local stock market. Chan said the short-term rentals on Airbnb listings are the ones hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Knight Frank Malaysia noted that generally in Kuala Lumpur (KL), most new developments offered rental discounts ranging from 5% to 10%. (The Malaysian Reserve)

Travellers from Malaysia via sea, land exempted from new Singapore border restrictions

Those travelling into Singapore from Malaysia via sea or land will be exempted from the new border restrictions on Asean countries, due to the close proximity and high inter-dependency between the two neighbours. But separate arrangements for precautions are being worked out by a bilateral joint working group, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said.The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday announced that all travellers – including Singapore citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, and short-term visitors – entering Singapore with recent travel history to Asean countries, Japan, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom within the last 14 days will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN). However, such restrictions on those coming in from Malaysia would be complex. “We do have to put in place some special considerations for Malaysia because of the close proximity and the high inter-dependency between our two countries,” said Wong. (The Star Online)

‘Increasing Covid-19 stimulus package will raise deficit’

Expanding the economic stimulus package (ESP) will not be something out of the ordinary but the government needs to keep a watchful eye on its impact on the budget deficit and debt, an economist said. “We have seen a sharp decline in equity prices and bond yields across the globe, suggesting that investors are seeking protection against volatility,” said Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid. He said higher government spending by way of additional ESP allocation would spur economic activities. “But this would mean higher fiscal deficits and debt level. As such, the government must put in place measures that would ensure sustainability in revenue stream, especially when the economic activities recover. Perhaps revisiting the Goods and Services Tax could be one of the main considerations, which could lead to more buy-in from credit rating agencies. That way, the government would have more leeway to prescribe additional ESP as it is committed to balancing the budget at some point in the horizon.” (NST Online)

JPJ: No plans to increase road tax

There are no plans to increase road taxes, says the Road Transport Department (JPJ). JPJ was responding to rumours circulating on social media that the government has plans to increase the road tax for vehicles. “The RTD would like to stress that the prices of road tax are still the same and there are no changes as claimed,” it said in a statement. The department also advised the public not to be fooled by unverified news and to check for the source of such news first. (The Star Online)