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SoCot developing contact tracing app

PNA

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South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. (Facebook image)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The provincial government of South Cotabato is developing a mobile application that would help speed up the tracing of people who might be exposed to persons infected with the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said the province’s information technology department is currently working on the application and targeting its rollout before businesses in the province will start to normalize.

Tamayo said the app will be deployed in business establishments that will open once the local government decides to ease the movement restrictions and the enhanced community quarantine.

He said all persons entering the establishments, especially shopping malls, will be logged into a database to facilitate faster contact-tracing in case one of them will eventually turn out positive of Covid-19.

“We’re working on a system that can be deployed in tablets and cell phones,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Tamayo said the system will be complemented later by the rollout of the planned province-wide identification or ID system.

In February, Tamayo directed the purchase of ID makers to print “common ID cards” for every resident of the province. The IDs may be used to log into the system when entering the establishments and their assigned numbers will be recorded in the database.

The logs will include the date and time when a person enters a specific business establishment, Tamayo said.

“It will be useful, for instance in a drug store, when one of the customers would test positive for Covid-19. Through the database, we can trace everyone who was catered in a specific period that the patient was there,” he said.

The availability of a reliable contact tracing system was among the four major criteria earlier set by the provincial government in considering the possible reopening of the local economy after the end of the quarantine period on April 30.

The other considerations are the “flattening of the curve” or the reduction of Covid-19 cases for 14 days, availability of the patient care center in case of an outbreak and, the availability of medical front-liners and personal protective equipment.

As of Thursday evening, the Integrated Provincial Health Office said a total of 135 suspect Covid-19 patients are being monitored within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

It listed zero probable cases so far and one recovery out of the three confirmed Covid-19 patients in the area.

p: wjg

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PNPA goes distance learning

Kristina Maralit

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The Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) recently announced it will be adopting a distance learning approach for cadets in compliance with the government’s policy barring face-to-face sessions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement, PNPA director Maj. Gen. Gilbert Cruz also pointed to the recent virus outbreak in the academy that infected 243 cadets and personnel as a reason for the shift.

“Head-on classes with the cadets are prohibited until a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 becomes available,” Cruz said in the advisory released late Friday.

“I made it clear with the Dean of Academics to secure all professors’ alignment on this matter. Every lecturer must be virtually present during classes and all lessons shall be embedded in online modalities to make sure that interactions are achieved,” he added.

To ensure the smooth transition to the flexible blended learning modality, the PNPA has purchased LED televisions and sound reinforcement systems which will be installed in different learning areas inside the camp in Silang, Cavite.

Internet connectivity has also been established inside the academy.

The following areas were designated as blended learning venues: dormitories for the first-class cadets, a new mess hall for second class cadets, an existing mess hall for third class cadets, and the academic building for fourth-class cadets.

The PNPA had been on lockdown since 14 September as swab tests conducted on 232 trainees and 11 personnel resulted in positive results for the virus.

Another swab testing will be done on the infected patients on 30 September to see if they have all recovered from the viral respiratory ailment after undergoing quarantine in the five buildings within the premises that have been temporarily converted into isolation facilities.

As an added layer of protection, Cruz ordered for 6,500 face shields, 16,000 masks, and 1,100 bottles of alcohol to be distributed among the trainees and personnel who did not contract the virus to ensure there will be no more transmissions within the PNPA’s walls.

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Marino urges DFA to waive 9 (c) Visa for foreign seafarers

Raffy Ayeng

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THE seafarer’s lone representation at the Lower House, MARINO Party-list, has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to waive the 9(C) visa of foreign nationals performing crew change in the country’s designated ports.

MARINO Partylist Representative Macnell Lusotan, in a statement, asked the DFA to revisit its implementing guidelines when it comes to disembarking foreign seafarers in the country, as it is deemed to be “counterproductive” to the Philippines’ ambition to be an international hub for a crew change.

Lusotan explained that the measure was enjoyed by Filipino seafarers performing crew change in two Asian countries – namely Singapore and India – and said the two had become lenient as to disembarkation of foreign nationals on their home turf.

“The Maritime Port Authority of Singapore enhanced their crew change by considering compassionate grounds for allowing seafarers to disembark, while India allowed disembarkation as long as the seafarer presents a temporary landing permit,” according to Lusotan.

Based on the current DFA guidelines, the foreign seafarer must possess a valid 9(C) Philippine-issued visa upon arrival in the country. Acquiring this Visa requires stringent requirements.

Lusotan said the current measure is impossible to comply, given the situation that some ship owners decide to divert their ships to Philippine waters for a crew change on abrupt notices.

Lusotan added the arrival of foreign seafarers will as well open employment opportunities to Filipino seafarers and will be a win-win for both the seafarer and the country’s economy.

“The advantage of this is when the foreign seafarers disembark, it will give way for Filipino seafarers to replace the posts of foreign seafarers. In addition, crew change will give the Philippines the much-needed revenue. For 90 ships per month to be diverted to our country, for example, Japan, it will generate at least P 67.9M in regulatory fees alone, so it will help our economy grapple with the effects of the COVID-19,” the lawmaker added.

Lusotan, MARINO’s 2nd nominee, expressed hope that his request will be pondered and considered by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, as the country’s economy will be benefited from the measure’s retweaking.

“Sana maconsider natin ito lalo na at nangangailangan tayo ng revenue at tsaka ‘yung employment [ng mga marinong Pilipino] at ‘yung remittances,” Lusotan averred.

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SoKor demands Pyongyang further probe killing of official

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Seoul says it will demand further investigation by Pyongyang into the killing of a South Korean official after a rare public apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Yahoo)

Seoul said Saturday it will demand further investigation by Pyongyang into the killing of a South Korean official after a rare public apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The fisheries official was shot dead by North Korean soldiers on Tuesday, the first such killing of a South Korean civilian in a decade.

In a surprise move, Kim said he was “very sorry” for the “unexpected and disgraceful event”, but South Korea announced it would ask for further investigation.

“We have decided to demand the North carry out a further probe and request a joint investigation if necessary,” the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, said in a statement.

It added that South Korea’s own investigation will continue because of “discrepancies” in the accounts of the shooting.

South Korean military officials say the man was interrogated while in the water for several hours and expressed a desire to defect, but was killed after an “order from superior authority”.

They also said North Koreans poured oil over his body and burnt it, calling it an “outrageous act”.

In contrast, Pyongyang said in a letter sent Friday — which contained Kim’s apology — that the official had “illegally entered our waters” and refused to properly identify himself.

It acknowledged that around 10 rounds were fired at the man and that he was not visible after the shooting.

Troops then set the official’s flotation device — which was covered in blood — on fire in accordance with North Korea’s emergency coronavirus regulations, the letter added.

Apologies from North Korea — let alone attributed to Kim personally — are extremely unusual, and the message came with inter-Korean ties in a deep freeze, and nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington deadlocked.

There have been no North Korean media reports on the contents of the letter.

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DOH cautions gradual opening of tourism sites

Gabbie Parlade

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Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergerie urged the government to exercise caution when it allows the gradual opening of tourism sites as the coronavirus pandemic remains a grave threat.

In a forum held on Friday, Vergeire said that ample analysis of such initiatives should first be established in order to prevent any possible surge of cases.

“We are slowly trying to study it so that we can assert and or determine if opening up in fall will not compromise the safety of our population,” she said.

The health official also explained the importance of striking a balance between health and economy through establishing initial developments before shifting on a wider scale.

“We have to check first, we have to start slow and small before we can fully implement and try to see if really we can go on and open up these kinds of sectors without compromising the safety, or course the transmission risk for people within that community,” Veregerie said.

The national government recently said it is planning to open both Baguio City and Boracay to tourists beginning the first week of October in order to help localities to jump-start the economy.

The Department of Tourism said that among the policies to be implemented include the ‘test before travel rule’ where all visitors are required to have a negative RT-PCR test 48 to 72 hours prior to traveling to the island.

The strict quarantine will be imposed after the test to ensure the travelers’ safety before the set travel date.

Travelers who are aged 21 years old and below as well as those 60 years old and above will be permitted provided that they have no existing comorbidities.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city will initially accept visitors from Region I as part of its pilot testing.

The idea was welcomed by other local government officials in the Ilocos region who are also considering doing the same thing to their respective provinces.

Although more areas are willing to receive tourists, Magalong—who also serves as the national tracing czar—said that only guided tours will be allowed in the meantime to prevent a possible outbreak of the disease.

Meanwhile, the DOH said it will soon be releasing a complete document of guidelines which includes provision for pathways, tests, and management of cases for domestic travelers.

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Celtics stay alive in NBA playoffs

With their season hanging in the balance, the Celtics exploded for 41 points in the third quarter.

Agence France-Presse

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Miami, United States — The Boston Celtics roared back in the second half to beat the Miami Heat 121-108 on Friday to stay alive in the NBA playoffs.

Jayson Tatum scored 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Jaylen Brown added 28 points as six Celtics players scored in double figures and Boston cut the deficit in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals to three games to two.

Goran Dragic led the Heat with 23 points and Duncan Robinson added 20 for Miami, who are trying to reach the NBA finals for the first time since 2014.

With their season hanging in the balance, the Celtics exploded for 41 points in the third quarter to turn the tide in a game dominated early by Miami.

Under solid pressure from the Heat defense, the Celtics had made just one of their first 12 shots and connected on just five of 20 from the field in the first quarter.

Boston trailed by as many as 12 in the opening period, which ended with the Heat leading 26-18.

Miami again built the lead to 12 in the second period and finished the first half with a 58-51 lead.

But Boston was beginning to see some shots fall, and as they turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor after the interval Miami had no answer.

The Celtics opened the second half with a 20-5 scoring run.

Marcus Smart’s three-pointer tied it up at 60-60 and Boston took the lead for the first time in the contest, 62-60, on Brown’s layup off a feed from Kemba Walker.

They wouldn’t trail again.

Walker’s three-pointer with 4:26 left in the third gave Boston a 10-point lead and the Celtics took a nine-point edge into the final frame when they continued to pour it on.

Tatum scored 17 in the third and the Celtics out-rebounded the Heat 16-5 in the quarter.

“We got back to playing Celtics basketball,” Walker said. “I felt like early in the game we were a little frustrated, bickering at each other at the refs. We got out of it, and just let the game come to us.”

The Celtics will try to build on their momentum against a Heat team determined to put them away in game six on Sunday.

The winners of the series take on either the Los Angeles Lakers or Denver Nuggets for the NBA title in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

The Lakers lead the Nuggets three games to one in the Western Conference finals.

Boston’s German center Daniel Theis contributed a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds, Smart finished with 12 points and Gordon Hayward chipped in 10.

“Boston played great in that second half, they deserved and earned what they got,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“We did not compete hard enough defensively and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston, they played with great force particularly off the dribble.”

Spoelstra noted that the Celtics scored just four points in the paint in the first quarter but added: “It was just a deluge to the rim after that.”

Boston scored 30 points in the paint in the second half and had 13 fastbreak points to Miami’s zero after the break.

“We didn’t defend as well as we could in the first half and that’s what got our offense going in the second half,” Tatum said. “We just locked in, we were all on the same page.”

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Go: Pinoys deserve a decent home

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The office of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go continues its mission to reach out and help fire victims even in the provinces in line with the senator’s campaign promise of extending assistance to those who need it.

In line with this, the senator’s staff collaborated with the National Housing Authority (NHA) in delivering government housing assistance to fire victims during an aid distribution activity in Barangay San Roque Gym in Cebu City on 23 September.

In a virtual message, Go stressed that the NHA is ready to provide financial assistant under its Emergency Housing Assistance Program to families whose houses were partially and totally damaged which is under the national government’s program as he stressed that all Filipinos deserve a decent home.

Representatives of the NHA conducted the distribution of assistance in strict compliance with health protocols.

 

 

To recall, the senator filed Senate Bill No. 203 – or the National Housing Development, Production and Financing Bill — last July 2019 which seeks to generate and mobilize funds to increase low-cost housing production; provide support mechanisms to improve access to housing options; guarantee the development of a strong, sustainable, accessible and affordable housing finance system; and increase private sector participation, among others.

In December 2019, Go filed another bill seeking to provide more assistance. SBN 1227 or the Rental Housing Subsidy Program Act intends to provide families displaced by natural and man-made disasters with improved access to the formal housing market by offering a rental subsidy.

During the distribution in Cebu, Go’s team also extended help to 105 out of 402 families affected by a fire incident that happened on 3 November 2019 in Brgy. San Roque.

Affected families were provided with food packs and meals, masks, face shields, vitamins and basic medicines. Bicycles were also given to those who need them most. These fire victims were also previously provided food packs and cash assistance last 8 November 2019 during the senator’s visit.

Go also noted that the first Malasakit Center that was opened in the country is at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City. Other Malasakit Centers in Cebu province are located at St. Anthony Mother and Child Hospital in Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City District Hospital in Lapu-Lapu City, Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital in Mandaue City, and Talisay District Hospital in Talisay City.

The senator also reassured the public that he and President Rodrigo Duterte will continue to serve the nation, provide the needs of the Filipinos and address the health crisis at full extent.

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Not just a marketplace: Meet Viber Community superadmins

TDT

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Filipino lives and that of the world have turned upside down these past six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Things people used to do without worries — like shopping, going to the gym, attending a cooking class, meeting friends—have instantly become things of the past.  At least for the time being as medical experts predict that the pandemic may drag still on for months or even years.

With the present set up, most of the people are now glued to their screens, looking for ways to find a sense of normalcy and community and manage their anxieties at a time when physical distancing means saving lives.

And did you know that Viber plays a major role in many lives right now? And Viber has its own people that connect one life to another?

Now, meet the people who created some of your favorite Viber Communities while in quarantine, keeping their members’ companies and loneliness at bay.

Good vibes and quarantine baking

When KG Sison, a marketing consultant, saw an unanswered query about baking suppliers in one of the Communities she was already part of, she decided to create her own.

Homebaking Community, though initially dedicated to baking supplies, evolved into a thriving support group that shared baking tips, hacks, and many more.

 

KG Sison (left) encourages members to post their creations and share their baking-related tips to the Homebaking Viber Community.

“We encouraged members to post their creations and freely ask baking-related questions. We wanted to be a legit community—a place where people talked and made friends instead of being transactional in nature,” Sison said.

Sison said managing a community made her less lonely during the quarantine, emphasizing how these Communities have become a source of positivity for her and the members.

“Even our members have reported that the group has made them less lonely and anxious during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). It served as a form of social support for us and our members,” she said, sharing how webinars have been produced and future field trips planned.

“We made friends. I think this was the greatest surprise and blessing that I gained from these Viber Communities.”

Since then, Sison has indeed lived up to being a superadmin, establishing other groups like Homecooking Community, Urban Gardening, and MNL Sourdough Fam Community, all of which have the same community vibe – “less selling, more interaction.” It wasn’t until recently that she decided to create the Homebakers Marketplace, providing Community members another venue to sell their baked goods during the quarantine.

“I use a variety of chat platforms, but I noticed that the general public uses Viber, and that means more reach. But more importantly, I find that there are fewer trolls on Viber because you need to have a phone number attached to an account,” she pointed out.

Staying active together at home

Celina Payawal (left), created the Gym & FItness Marketplace MM, a Viber Community where they sell gym equipment and motivate each other to stay fit at home.

With gyms closed during ECQ, fitness enthusiasts were pushed to modify their workouts and do their routines at home.

And for those who didn’t have what they needed, the Gym & Fitness Marketplace MM Viber Community became a lifesaver.

This haven was where everyone who was looking for jump ropes and yoga mats, to more specific gym equipment like spinning bikes and squat racks, flocked to.

Created by Celina Payawal, an entrepreneur, after she noticed that there was no community dedicated to the fitness market, the group that was only supposed to cater to those living in Metro Manila grew to include members from Tarlac, Ilocos, and Cebu.

Apart from connecting buyers to sellers and helping SMEs sustain their businesses, Payawal as the superadmin sees the Community as a place where everyone can encourage each other to stay fit and healthy while the world battles a deadly virus.

Given the popularity of the messaging app in the Philippines, it’s easy for superadmins like her to connect with like-minded individuals and help sellers reach out to customers.

It really was a no brainer for her, pointing out how Viber made sure that superadmins got the features they needed to manage their Community well, from pinning posts, choosing notification settings, to deleting unwanted messages.

A major point for Payawal is how Viber allows Community members to chat with each other without having to share their numbers. “It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to be able to transact with each other, since they don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security,” she said.

Shopping safely for essentials

Sellers are grateful to Terry Ilagan (left) for creating the Locale City Guide Viber Community.

Since the virus forced many stores and SMEs to close indefinitely, several entrepreneurs have been struggling to sell their products to a wider base.

Terry Ilagan noticed this and decided to create the Locale City Guide, a Viber Community that catalogs essential items sold by SMEs. From auto shop services to face shields, members were welcome to sell their products from the safety of their homes.

Ilagan chose Viber because of its unlimited member capacity and easy invite features. She thought it would be a great way to sell a wide array of goods. Community members can find pre-cooked meals and groceries to keep them well-fed over quarantine, delivery services to maintain social distancing guidelines, direct distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to keep business supplies moving, COVID essentials, and even entertainment products like gaming equipment and streaming links.

Ilagan knew she was doing something right when sellers began reaching out to him to thank him for creating the Community. “It may sound shallow, but being able to extend help by posting a seller’s homemade pastries and knowing that she made some bucks, gave me a pleasant feeling that lasted throughout the day,” she said.

Uplifting neighborhoods and communities

The Acacia Estates Viber Community, made by Diane Jimeno (left), was initially dedicated to updates on COVID-19 but then it quickly became a venue for SMEs to promote their businesses during these trying times.

One evening in March, Diane Jimeno was looking through a Viber Community that gave residents of Bonifacio Global City a catalog of goods and services they could avail of over quarantine. She decided that her community, Acacia Estates, needed one too, and decided to make it herself. The Acacia Estates Residents Community initially was dedicated to health updates on the pandemic.

But later, people began using the community as a way to sell their products.

“We decided to just accommodate the sellers in the group, but the community kept on growing rapidly that having community updates related to COVID-19 was almost impossible to discuss,” said Jimeno.

“This led us to decide to create another community called Acacia Estates Community and renamed the Acacia Estates Residents community to Acacia Estates Marketplace.”

Several of Jimeno’s neighbors began thanking her for giving them a space to do business. “Being able to promote micro and small businesses in the community helped people especially during these trying times,” she said. Though many were feeling the economic crisis of the pandemic, the people of Acacia Estates had a platform to keep their livelihoods afloat and support one another.

Now, it’s your turn to share your Viber story. Let Viber know how the app became part of your daily life. Send your story over to [email protected]

About Rakuten Viber:

At Rakuten Viber, we connect people. No matter who they are, or where they are from. Our global user base has access to a range of features like one-on-one chats, video calls, group messaging, and updates and discussions with their favorite brands and celebrities. We ensure our users have a secure and free environment to share their emotions.

 Rakuten Viber is part of Rakuten Inc., a world leader in e-commerce and financial services. It is the official communication channel of FC Barcelona, and the official instant messaging and calling app partner of the Golden State Warriors.

 Join Viber today and enjoy the world’s best communication experience.

 For further inquiries, contact us at [email protected]

 

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Go continues aid to fire victims

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True to his promise of helping fire victims in any way he can, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go – through his outreach team – continued to extend a helping hand even in the provinces.

In Lanao del Norte, the senator’s outreach team met with a family of four displaced by a fire at their area in Brgy. Caromatan, Kolambugan on 17 September and brought cash assistance, food and medicine packs, masks and face shields, and a bicycle to help Crisanto Dahili and his family recover from the incident.

The family also received other forms of emergency assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DoH), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), National Housing Authority (NHA), and the local social welfare office.

The Department of Trade and Industry, on the other hand, pledged to provide financial assistance to help Dahili start a hog-raising business in their village.

 

Over at Misamis Occidental, Go’s team brought emergency relief to Vicente Villapus and his family after they lost everything in a house fire in Brgy. Balatacan in Tangub City on 16 September.

The team provided food and medicine packs, masks and shields, a bicycle, and cash aid to help the family purchase essential items.

In addition, the Villapus family received family kits, hygiene kits, and extra food packs from the representatives of the DSWD who also joined the small event.

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Malaysian PM faces major test in state polls

Malaysia has been gripped by political turmoil since the collapse in February of a reformist government.

Agence France-Presse

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Semporna, Malaysia — Malaysia’s embattled leader faces state elections Saturday that is his biggest political test since taking office, with analysts saying he desperately needs a win to strengthen his tenuous hold on power.

A defeat for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s allies in Sabah state on Borneo will erode support among his seven-month-old government’s coalition partners, increasing pressure for snap national polls, observers warn.

Adding to his problems, the election comes just days after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim launched a bid to topple his administration, claiming he had mustered enough support from MPs to take over.

Malaysia has been gripped by political turmoil since the collapse in February of a reformist government, which was headed by Mahathir Mohamad and included Anwar, amid bitter infighting.

Muhyiddin seized power without an election and leads a coalition backed by a scandal-plagued party, but his administration has only a wafer-thin majority in parliament, and critics say it is illegitimate.

The Sabah elections were called after a Muhyiddin ally launched a bid to take over the opposition-controlled local government. But rather than cede power, the chief minister dissolved the state assembly.

About 1.1 million people are eligible to vote for 73 assembly seats in the state on the northeastern tip of jungle-clad Borneo island, which is home to a dizzying array of indigenous groups.

Loose coalitions are backing the government and the opposition, but analysts say the vote is too close to call. Results are expected late Saturday.

The outcome will not directly affect the balance of power at the national level, but it is a key test of Muhyiddin’s popularity.

Despite taking power without a democratic vote, he has won praise for his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and received a 69 percent approval rating in a recent survey.

“He needs a win to show… that the high popularity he enjoys can be translated into votes on the ground,” Ibrahim Suffian, head of independent polling firm Merdeka Center, told AFP.

“If he loses badly, then the government could potentially collapse.”

Muhyiddin has faced pressure from his allies to call a general election soon to secure a stronger mandate, but some observers believe he wants to delay as long as possible.

That, however, may become difficult if he fares badly in Sabah.

Anwar’s power play has added to pressure on Muhyiddin but does not appear to have gained traction for now.

He has refused to reveal the number of MPs backing him while the king, who appoints the country’s premier, has postponed an appointment to see him due to ill health.

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