The people in the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) have come under immense pressure lately; under pressure not because they have not been doing their job, but for doing a great yet thankless job of keeping Sarawakians safe from the crippling Covid-19 pandemic ever since the disease made it to our shores sometime in March last year.
I am disappointed with the numerous uncalled-for remarks against the committee. Many, especially those in the travel and tourism industry, have made statements which are not doing any good to the poor hardworking fellas in SDMC.
Among the remarks are: SDMC is making it hard for Malaysians, including Sarawakians residing in Malaya, to return to their home state; tourists are hindered by the stringent measures from entering Sarawak; and businesses are suffering because of the stringent standard procedures (SOPs).
Oh, come on lah! Give us a break. When our measures are perceived as less stringent, we are accused of not coming up with forceful or decisive enough SOPs.
But when SDMC chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and his hardworking team — who are already stretched to their limit — decided that there would be no let-up in the enforcement of the strict SOPs to curb the spread of Covid-19, the poor deputy chief minister plus of course his teammates have come under a barrage of criticisms which is very demoralising.
They have been cracking their heads to come up with measures to keep Sarawak and its people safe and here we have some government officials, including ruling coalition politicians, unleashing their unrestrained negative comments.
Sometime back, Ba Kelalan assemblyman and Selangau MP Baru Bian hurled accusations against the SDMC for adopting what he claimed as half-measures (Borneo Post, June 1, 2021) to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Highlighting the fact that Sarawak was among the states with an alarming proportion of coronavirus infections, he warned that the state could not afford to let the situation spiral further out of control especially when hospitals, medical facilities, and frontliners were being stretched to breaking point.
“A grim picture indeed which is not expected to improve, taking into consideration the ‘half-measures’ adopted by the SDMC … The many standard operating procedures and apparent differing procedures have led many to believe that SDMC is ‘blowing in the wind’,” he said.
Baru had also claimed back then that the SDMC and related agencies had not taken adequate steps to stop interstate travel.
But when SDMC recently announced strict pre-entry screening requirements to enter Sarawak since severe cases were still high and it was important to curb imported cases, there were people in Sarawak unhappy with the measures.
Earlier, SDMC had made it mandatory for fully vaccinated individuals who wanted to enter Sarawak to apply via the enterSarawak app and comply with certain conditions.
Our government still insists on stringent measures for those entering Sarawak.
Allow me to quote a recent DayakDaily report:
“There are many more cases that have tested positive before applying for admission to Sarawak. These pre-entry screening requirements into Sarawak have helped reduce the risk of in-flight transmission and protect passengers on the same aircraft.
“Despite the declining trend, cases in Sarawak are still high. The number of severe cases (Categories 3 to 5) is also still high.
“Therefore, the Sarawak Health Department hopes not to increase the burden on existing health facilities, especially ICU facilities, by not increasing the number of cases or clusters in the community through imported cases. This is so that optimal services can be provided to those who need them.”
However, following numerous requests from businesses, individuals, agencies and even ministers, the SDMC — on Oct 16 — decided that individuals from Malaya, Sabah and Labuan who have been fully vaccinated would not be required to apply via the enterSarawak platform to enter the state effective today (Oct 18).
Those wishing to enter Sarawak are only required to fill in the e-Health Declaration Form (eHDF), they do not need to undergo screening, but must show proof of being fully vaccinated and have ‘Low Risk’ or ‘No Symptom Casual Contact’ status in the MySejahtera application.
And for individuals who have not undergone the full dose and wish to enter Sarawak, they are required to apply through enterSarawak, and undergo the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (rt-PCR) or Rapid Test Kit-Antigen (RTK Antigen) screening test three days before leaving for Sarawak.
Now that SDMC has make it easier for people to enter Sarawak and allow inter-state travel, the onus is on us to take all the necessary steps to stay safe.
And, please lah, don’t accuse the SDMC or the state authorities for not taking the necessary measures or being too strict.