Jamie Tiew Yen Houng

SIBU: Sibu Businesswomen Association (SBWA) wants the state government to give face masks to frontliners first.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on March 23 said the state had ordered two million face masks for distribution to Sarawakians.

SBWA president Jamie Tiew Yen Houng yesterday said that with the population of the state at almost three million, the amount of face masks to be given free by the government would not be adequate.

She said the face masks should be given to frontliners first ― for the next 60 days at the very least.

This issue of face masks had been a hot topic during the movement control order because they were not readily available and if they were, the price was exorbitant, she said.

“These frontliners are our most important assets at the moment. All measures should be taken to protect them first. Our government should not even have to consider this. It is not a choice,” she added.

Tiew opined that the government should at least provide complimentary masks if they were serious about battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Look at how China forces all her population to wear face masks, and they managed to control the pandemic,” she pointed out.

SBWA, she said, urged the government (both federal and state) to implement several measures.

“The first is a very strict control on those who have had contact with anyone tested positive for Covid-19, and this can be done like in Hong Kong where these people are identified with a wristband (much like a hospital wristband) which if removed could lead to imprisonment.

“This will ensure that these ‘traced’ people are forced to stay in isolation and not cause further contact with others.

“Secondly, Socso and EPF payments be waived for the rest of 2020.

“Thirdly, effective economic plans to bail out small and medium businesses must be put in place immediately before such businesses are forced to close indefinitely,” she said.

SBWA suggested that subsidies to employees’ salary payment and/or rental of office space and tax payments be exempted for year 2019 and at least for the first half of year 2020.

“Lastly, protective materials like face masks, hand sanitisers, disinfectants and gloves should be made readily available to the whole nation at public places, especially petrol stations, banks, supermarkets and everywhere else where people will congregate for essentials.”