KUCHING (May 31): Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has appealed to Sarawakians to follow the state government’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) and not return to their villages and longhouses for Gawai Dayak.
In his message for the festival, he stressed the stringent SOPs are not meant to inconvenience or burden the people but to save lives.
“Last year, very few longhouses were affected. But this year the scenario changed and grimly. Some 634 longhouses statewide have been affected and placed under lockdown so far. A total of 3,894 positive cases were recorded,” said the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman.
“This year’s Gawai is set to be another subdued affair. We are bonded by the New Norm. The existing Covid-19 pandemic, its increasing cases, and now the emergence of new variants of concern, absolutely necessitate the government to come up with very stringent SOPs.”
He pointed out the cases stemmed from social gatherings such as funerals, weddings, birthday celebrations, gotong-royong, and cockfighting.
Such gatherings were very fertile grounds for Covid-19 to spread when held without much concern for physical distancing, wearing of face masks, and maintaining personal hygiene, he said.
Uggah said family members attending funerals contributed to 12 clusters, 3,725 positive cases, and 31 deaths.
The most notorious was the Pasai Cluster in Sibu, which resulted in 2,693 positive cases and 29 deaths, and remains the biggest cluster in Sarawak to date.
He cited unrestricted inter-state and inter-district travel as another source of infections, with inter-district travel resulting in 12 clusters with 545 positive cases and three deaths.
“I plead with fellow Dayaks, please avoid returning to your longhouses and villages this year.
“To those in longhouses and villages, do not hold any gathering, the open house, and the ‘ngabang’ (house to house visiting). Observe the Gawai SOP with full confidence, discipline, and responsibility,” he said.
He called on village security and development committees (JKKKs) in longhouses and villages to conduct community policing to ensure full SOP compliance.
Uggah also encouraged the people to accept vaccination as an effective way to combat Covid-19 transmission.
“Please help us to help you and your loved ones. Our hope to win this war is through vaccination. Our government is implementing the Covid-19 Immunisation Programme throughout the length and breadth of the state where 279 vaccination centres have been set up. We want to vaccinate all in Sarawak above 18 years of age,” he said.
As of May 12, he said 1.3 million or 54.4 per cent of those eligible in Sarawak have registered for vaccination.
Uggah called on all yet to register to do so either through the MySejahtera app or at the nearest district office or health clinic.
To facilitate and speed up vaccination, he said the Sarawak government has roped in 23 general practitioners (GPs) and five private hospitals to assist with the free service.
He said Sarawak also planned to add 16 more GPs and two private hospitals to the list.
“For those in the interior, we will mobilise outreach teams to longhouses, villages, and other settlements. All must make full use of these opportunities,” he added.