KOTA KINABALU: MCA Wanita Sabah Chief, Dr Pamela Yong has urged the Sabah government to improve the health quarantine centres.
She said that the complaints were serious as these involved Sabah’s youths who were the future of the state.
She said that MCA Wanita Sabah strongly implored to all relevant authorities to take heed of the reported conditions at health quarantine centres in the state and make swift remedial improvements to ease the concerns and mental anguish highlighted by those under quarantine on May 18 in a social media posting.
The centre that was highlighted in the social media was the badminton hall of the Sports complex in Likas.
“We empathise with students who were emotionally relieved to have finally been granted permission to return to their home state but only to be greeted by such poorly coordinated and ill-thought out quarantine facilities provided by the State authorities as their welcome home “gift”. Indeed, instead of welcomed relief and elation of being back in the safety and warmth of their home state, they were faced with new tribulations over the dismal conditions of the quarantine centres where not only theirs but the wellbeing and health of the elderly, pregnant women, young children and middle-aged adults were anything but safe,” she said.
She added that MCA Wanita Sabah investigated the issue and spoke to a few students at the quarantine centres.
“These youths, who had been fearful for their lives while under lockdown and unable to leave their campuses in Peninsular Malaysia for the past two months, were so very relieved to return home and be in the warm embrace of their families who had been praying night and day for the safe return of their children,” she said.
“Most notably, these students were not spoilt brats that our State officials and Sabah government ministers painted them to be. They were level headed and understood the dangers posed by Covid-19, knew the risk they could expose their families to and accepted the need to undergo the 14-day compulsory quarantine to keep the outbreak of the pandemic at bay in Sabah. Honestly, none of the students who spoke up of their ordeal, expected anything like 5-star or even 3-star rated facilities.”
She said that the students underwent lockdown in their dormitories for two months.
“The youths are more fastidious and meticulous in observing standard operating procedures (SOPs) which include temperature checks, strict personal hygiene (frequent washing and sanitisation of hands, wearing face mask and social distancing) and of sanitary living and campus environment which they had followed to the tee. Therefore, they are fully conditioned mentally to the new norms and were therefore shocked that the relevant Sabah authorities were slacking in the State quarantine facilities and putting their young lives on the line.”
Dr Pamela also said that it was shocking to MCA Wanita Sabah that while the State authorities expect other premises to adhere to all the SOPs within their premise during this Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), the epitome of leading by example is not upheld by the State.
“It boggles the mind how much our experienced State leaders value the lives of our young students who now put their lives in the hands of the state while under quarantine, enduring conditions that do not mentally appease their inherent fears of Covid-19 but rather amplifies their risk of exposure,” she lamented.
“Having lived under a two-month campus lockdown with daily drills over social distancing and other health norms, these youths were able compare the ‘approach’ and concept of quarantine by the State authorities that they found to be somewhat imprudent and ill conceived. While they willingly serve their quarantine as a law abiding citizen, they expect equally that the State should put their lives, well-being and safety utmost.”
Dr Pamela said that the students had outlined the basic guidelines to prevent infection by Covid-19 which were lacking at the centres;
These include the lack of clear instructions on the do’s and don’ts especially of personal hand hygiene, wearing face mask and to practice social distancing (Mask wearing and daily temperature checks are not compulsory); frequent water disruption (of up to 5-6 hours) curtailing the fundamental hygiene of hand washing.
“Invariably, there is a mad rush to the toilets and bathrooms when water supply is restored and that social distancing is not adhered to during such periods; those under quarantine were unsupervised mostly, allowing groups to play ball games indoor including eating together at a corner and on the floor.
“As a health quarantine centre, the State authorities should hire supervisory staff if shortage of manpower was an issue; Hand soap dispensers in toilets were initially not available; poorly maintained condition of the toilets/bathrooms that were unhygienic; no constant regular cleaning or any disinfecting of the quarantine centres, even for the toilets.
“This included sinks utilised for toothbrushing/mouth rinsing and thus at high risk of Covid-19 virus contamination due to presence of saliva and sputum; and different batches of students returning on different days and on different flights were mixed together. There was no distinct separation evident.
“The youths emphasized it was their civic responsibility to highlight these inadequacies with the hope that the State authorities would improve on things in order to safeguard everyone’s well-being at the quarantine centre,” she said.
“While it is commendable that there are conscientious efforts by the State authorities to keep Sabah safe from Covid-19, there seem to be room for improvement with regards to the quarantine centres. MCA Wanita Sabah believes that the same conscientious effort to detail should also be given to those under quarantine.”
She said that under the current quarantine environment, one wonders how the State authorities hope to prevent those under quarantine from infecting each other.
“For example, if one who is tested negative and due to be released becomes mixed with a new batch of arrivals and inadvertently comes into contact with a positive individual, those subsequently released may endanger their family and society, defeating the purpose of the quarantine,” she said.
She also said that MCA Wanita Sabah questions how the State authorities hopes to curb a potential widespread outbreak of Covid-19 within a centre under current lackadaisical quarantine arrangements where cross infection control practices are not strictly applied.
“Hence, we implore to the relevant State authorities to look into the basic health needs and precautions at these centres to prevent inadvertent infection by the Covid-19 virus, ironically at a quarantine centre. More needs to be done. Sabah state authorities need to pull their socks up.”
She also said that while it was commendable that the Member of Parliament (MP) for Semporna, who is also the Chief Minister of Sabah, has taken heed of grouses among those under quarantine in Semporna centre and subsequently relocated some 300 to continue quarantine in hotels, what are our other elected representatives doing for the plight of their constituents?
“While the MP of Kota Kinabalu is preoccupied with distributing packs of coffee and tea to residents affluent homes in Bay Shore Condominium, Radiant Tower and Alam Damai, perhaps he could find some time for a quick detour and drop by the Likas Sports Complex and assess how else he can help these mostly poor youths and other Sabahans, and discharge his responsibility as an elected representative,” she chides.
Dr Pamela also said that despite confessing to hiccups in the handling and placement of students at quarantine centres, Sabah Minister of Health and People’s Well-being, Datuk Frankie Poon chose to cop out on his duties.
On 2 May 2020, he told the Star1: “I’m not involved in the decision-making but was told that matters are being looked into and what needs to be settled are being settled.”
“MCA Wanita Sabah therefore asks, what the job scope of a Minister of Health and Peoples Well-being is if not to take stock of the health and well-being of our dear quarantined youths? Leadership is about taking responsibility and not making excuses! So Minister Poon, please stop hiding behind State versus Federal “jurisdiction” cockamamie and rise up to your appointed responsibility. Stop being the Minister of Redundancy and be the responsible elected representative that Sabahans had voted you in for,” she said.