Press Statement By Irene Chang:
The MCO declared on Sibu is 5 days late since the 37 cases from the Pasai cluster exploded into the scene on 9th January 2021 and had shattered the green zone label which Sibu had been enjoying most of the time since the pandemic came to Sarawak on 13th March 2020. In just 5 days since then, 462 cases have emerged from the cluster to all over Sarawak, including in Sri Aman, Sebauh, Miri, Dalat, Kanowit, Belaga, Kuching, Bintulu and Semunjan. That is an average of 92.4 new cases every day – just from this cluster. From the statement released by SDMC yesterday (14th January 2020), 1,400 individuals from the cluster have been tested. 888 persons have been found negative whereas 50 individuals are still waiting for their result. And since it is not known if the contact tracing from this cluster have been completed yet or not, the extent of its true damage is therefore still unknown.
And if we look at the list released by SDMC every day on the locations where these infected persons had been before they were traced and quarantined, it seems that there is no more place in town which have not been covered by the virus. It is fair to say that the cluster in Pasai Siong would have been adverted if SDMC had not allowed the policy of home quarantine to be practised in Sibu from early December last year. Sibuans are now paying a heavy price for the mistake made by SDMC. Presumably this was one of the mistakes which the Deputy Chief Minister had on 11th January 2021, apologised to the people for – when he said that they would correct whatever mistake which they have made in order to stop the spread of the virus in Sarawak. If we want to move forward and see an improvement in things, the apology should be accepted in good faith. However, the apology should be translated into action for the State Government to prove her sincerity to her people.
And the first thing which SDMC has to do is to prevent our government hospitals from being overwhelmed and collapsing under the weight of surging numbers of daily cases. This is crucial for we have been told time and again by the MOH that our healthcare system is already at its breaking point. In actual fact, Sibu Hospital is already operating on borrowed capacity as it was reported a few days ago that its capacity for Covid 19 cases was almost 75%. And just yesteday, we read that the nurses’ hostel in Sibu Hospital has been converted into beds for the Covid 19 patients. Given the surging numbers of cases every day, this would soon be the common scenario in all the government hospitals in Sarawak if the virus is not stop in its track. And the only way to do is for SDMC to act promptly and decisively by declaring all the red zones in Sarawak, if not the whole Sarawak to be under MCO for at least 2 weeks. This is to stop the people movements between every divisions and districts until it can be more properly and accurately assessed on just how widespread is the pandemic from the existing clusters, especially the Pasai Cluster. We have seen how the Pasai cluster has already spread to 9 other places located in different parts of Sarawak. Mass swab testing therefore should be carried out in every town and district to gauge the spread of infection. Until we know the true picture, we can never totally wipe the virus from our midst due to the possible high number of asymptomatic persons in the communities. In the meantime, systematic disinfection and fumigation also need to be constantly carried out in all public places and known locations where any infected persons had visited.
SDMC should also take serious note that the more infectious variant of the virus known as “UK B.1.1.7” has been reported to have reached Peninsular Malaysia a few days ago. If Sarawak is not under total lockdown for at least a short duration, it would therefore be just a matter of time before this variant of the virus would reach Sarawak, if not already here. Since this variant is known to be very infectious and can spread quickly and easily, its presence in the state would definitely break our buckling health system in no time.
While I understand the economic concerns which may be caused by the MCO, however this would be the lesser of two evils in the event that the virus is allowed to spread wildly among our communities. This is happening in the UK and is bringing the country to her knees. If SDMC does not want Sarawakians to pay another high price for another mistake, SDMC needs to act fast and aggressively and rein in the virus before it totally destroys the social and economic fabric of our state.