Chang (centre) hands over thermometer to one of the recipients at a ceremony held on September 5.

SIBU: According to the Department of Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate in March this year was at its highest in 10 years at 3.9 percent, with more than 600,000 people being unemployed.

In May 2020, Bukit Assek assemblywomen Irene Chang said that the number has increased to 810,000 and the rate is still soaring as businesses struggle to keep afloat.

“What our society has gone through during the past few months has been very challenging, not only in terms of health but also in terms of our economy, jobs, and most of all our freedom to move around without any restriction.

“This pandemic is far from over as the number of cases continues to increase globally. In Malaysia too, cases continue to rise and the negative impact on our economy is huge.

“In Sibu, we see our economy hit hard, especially the small-medium enterprises (SMEs), with many suffering from — at least — a 60 percent drop in their businesses.

“Many businesses closed down and many people are being laid off. However, I believe we are slowly recovering and our economy is picking up. We may still have a long way to go before we can resume the life that we had before the pandemic, but I believe that we can get there. For that, we all have a part to play,” she told reporters on Saturday.

She said that the people themselves have to be actively and consciously involved in keeping themselves and everyone around them safe to prevent another wave.

“We are grateful that Sibu has never been a red zone and has maintained its green zone status for many weeks now. To keep it that way, each and every one of us needs to continue being vigilant and to practise our standard operating procedure (SOP) diligently.

“In many ways, we need to change our lifestyle and businesses need to adapt to the new norm of checking their customers’ details and temperature,” she said.

Chang and her team donated hands-free automatic scan thermometers to several government departments in Sibu, night and weekend markets, and polyclinics to ease the temperature scanning process.

The thermometers were sponsored by Excellent Enterprise Group of Sibu.

She noted that at most shops and business premises, people who have tracking applications just scan the barcode and enter, and that some applications don’t require customers to input their temperature readings.

“A lot of shop owners have not practised temperature screening before they allow customers to enter.

“Even though the Health Ministry has said that not all positive Covid-19 persons have fever, I believe that it is always better to adhere to the SOP as an additional precaution.”

Therefore, she urged the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to include mandatory temperature screening in its guidelines before customers are allowed entry into premises.

“We all have to play a part in flattening the curve,” she said.