Saturday, May 15

Hari Raya homecoming unlikely as quarantine order, travel ban still in full force

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Nur Zalikha Halim

KUCHING (Apr 19): It would probably be another subdued Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration again this year, seeing that the Covid-19 situation has yet to show much improvement.

Many Sarawakians, who are working outside the state, have given up hope of coming home for the celebration, in view of the requirement for those entering Sarawak to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Nur Zalikha Halim, 31, has been working in Putrajaya for five years and throughout the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, she would go back to Kuching once every one to two months to be with her parents and other family members

Now, she is still in the nation’s capital and has not been able to travel to her home city since December 2019.

“This is the longest time that I have not gone back to Kuching – about 14 months.

“I’m disappointed again this year as it seems impossible for me to come home for Hari Raya, but I can’t be selfish because Covid-19 is still plaguing us,” she told The Borneo Post here.

However, she also felt that mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on every individual arriving in Sarawak no longer made sense as Sarawak had continued to record high number of new Covid-19 cases – amounting up to half the cases registered in Peninsular Malaysia.

Adding on, she believed that many Sarawakians working outside the state would understand the justification of this quarantine requirement if Sarawak had recorded a small number of cases.

“It seems like the compulsory 14-day quarantine is no longer the best form to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Sarawak – it is already in the community.

“Think about us Sarawakian here – we have not returned to Sarawak since the start of the pandemic last year; some of us haven’t seen our parents and other family members; we have missed out on a lot of things, especially festive seasons.

“We’re just stuck here.”

Nur Zalikha said it saddened her to see her friends, the working mothers, who had no choice but to leave their children under the care of their parents or grandparents back in Sarawak.

There were also working couples who could not be together due to this restriction – the 14-day quarantine alone would take out a chunk of their annual leave allocation.

“I hope that the SDMC (Sarawak Disaster Management Committee) would relax the quarantine requirement – perhaps to compulsory RT-PCR testing, and maybe three-day quarantine at home.

“It’s not my intention of going against the government, but we, the Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia, really want to come home,” said Nur Zalikha.

Siti Nurbaya regards Hari Raya as the best time for her and her siblings to catch up, as only one of them is still in Kuching with their parents.

Expressing similar sentiments, Siti Nurbaya Mohd Basir got very upset knowing that she could not come home to Kuching for Hari Raya celebration this year due to restriction on inter-district, inter-division and inter-state travels.

The 36-year-old administrative officer is currently working in Miri.

One of her sister is also in Miri, and another is in Singapore.

Only her youngest brother is in Kuching, staying with and taking care of their parents.

“Having grown up and living our own lives now, not all of us siblings are in Kuching and thus, Hari Raya remains the best time for us to catch up and introduce new family members.

“I also miss my only grandma, who is in Kuching.

“I miss my mum’s cooking a lot – sometimes, I would attempt to make the dishes her way, but they are just not the same.”

Nur Aisyah hopes for the situation to improve, so that all her family members could gather and catch up with one another again.

Nur Aisyah Mohamad might not experience what Nur Zalikha and Siti Nurbaya had to go through, with her village located in the Kuching area itself, but she felt for her relatives living outside Sarawak who could not fly home for this festive occasion.

“I have some relatives in Selangor whom we have not seen since the pandemic, and most likely, they would not be able to come back this year due to the quarantine order.

“I do miss them – we didn’t see them during Hari Raya last year,” said the 31-year-old business manager.

Nonetheless, Nur Aisyah remained thankful that amidst the present situation, she could still run her business and earn her living.

“I do hope that the situation would improve, where all my family members could gather and catch up with one another again,” she said.

According to SDMC’s latest Covid-19 ‘Guidelines to Enter Sarawak’ (), updated on April 5, all non-Sarawakians and non-Malaysians who had been in the country for more than 15 days must request for approval to enter Sarawak via Peninsular Malaysia by filling in EnterSarawak and E-Health Declaration Form (E-HDF).

They must undergo a 14-day quarantine at the designated quarantine centres, with swab-tests to be taken on the second and 10th days.

However, their applications could be rejected due to incomplete documentation, or if they could not provide any solid reason necessitating such travelling.