Datuk Sri Tiong King Sing

KUCHING: Indecision and poor decision-making in the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Health Department has resulted in Malaya, with its advantage in resources, falling behind Sarawak in containing the Covid-19 outbreak, said Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

“In Sarawak, the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has quickly stemmed the spread of the 37 confirmed cases in the Pasai Siong Cluster, into the larger community.

“However, currently, some quarters have begun to take to social media to claim all credit for halting the outbreaks in order to take advantage of the political mileage,” he said in a statement on Saturday (Jan 9).

He said after the test results were released at about 10pm on Friday night and the confirmed cases identified, the state led by Assistant Minister of Local Government and Housing Dr Annuar Rapaee was instructed by SDMC to urgently arrange for the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) to block major roads.

He said the relevant authorities on Saturday morning quickly and decisively implemented a widespread blockade to limit the movements of the eight longhouses’ residents in the affected areas, while the Sarawak Welfare Department was on the ground to provide food relief.

“Not forgetting the frontliner personnel had been diligent in carrying out their tasks. SDMC and frontliners here have been the ones who are actually combatting the pandemic and the people notice this,” he said.

Taking Mador Cluster as an example, the Bintulu MP pointed out that as soon as SDMC had discovered the cluster, it immediately closed off Meradong district and stopped people from entering or exiting Bintangor.

He said the people were extremely worried and dismayed by the constant bad news over the past few days with regard to the rapid rise in confirmed cases and had lost confidence in the government’s policies to fight the pandemic.

“MoH and the Health Department give an impression of being directionless in preventing more outbreaks, with no coherent strategy or specific policies,” he said, believing that the people cannot help but feel doubt towards both of these agencies mentioned.

“We need to remind the Federal Health Department not to be so enamoured by the adoration of the public and be blinded to the other responsibilities of the office,” said Tiong.

He said that instead of repeatedly blaming the rising confirmed cases on having more testing and positive diagnoses, fixing the loopholes and gaps in the system to prevent more cases should be prioritised.

“We must treat the root causes and not focus only on the symptoms.”

To this point, he said several hospitals are still reporting problems of insufficient medical resources, including personal protective equipment needed by their frontliners.

“The pandemic has raged for close to a year and it took self-reliance by the state government and civil organisations in Sarawak to look for ways to raise funds for these related medical resources, instead of waiting for the federal government.

“Does the Federal Health Department want to wait until it is too late to provide these necessities?” he questioned.

He stressed that only well-planned decision-making would be an effective counter to the pandemic, adding that if Malaya had been decisive from the start of the first cases, it would not have gone out of control.

On the other hand, Tiong expressed gratitude to SDMC for its continuous vigilance and decisiveness in putting the people first as the chief body in charge of stopping more outbreaks.

“They have become the first line of defence for Sarawakians against the pandemic. The Sarawak government must continue to exercise its autonomy in preventing more cases. It does not need to fully adhere to the federal government’s policies in this matter,” he said.

He said the state government only needed to firmly implement decisive methods and measures swiftly to protect Sarawakians. He also called on Sarawakians to cooperate in helping the government with contact tracing.

“At the same time, we can only hope that the Health Department and MoH can treat the pandemic with greater urgency.

“For all their PR exercises, their actions are not helping to flatten the curve of cases in the country. More and more people are herded to the crowded quarantines centres and the consequences are getting worse,” he said.