Tuesday, November 28

Abdul Karim urges MOH, SDMC to consider removing face mask mandate


Abdul Karim (centre) speaks at a press conference accompanied by (from left) Hii, Dennis, Nasaruddin and Sharzede. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (April 13): The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) should study other countries’ Covid-19 pandemic handling approach, including removing the face mask mandate, said Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

The state Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts minister said Malaysia’s Covid-19 strategy seemed to be more rigid compared with other countries despite having allowed most economic sectors to open and entered the endemic phase.

He said other countries like Singapore and the United Kingdom had already partially removed the face mask mandate, with the public given the choice on whether to wear face masks or not, and he hoped Malaysia will go into that phase soon.

“Personally, I would not want to wear a mask if I am given a choice. That’s how it is,” said Abdul Karim at a press conference after launching the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2022 at the Borneo Cultures Museum today.

Touching on the standard operating procedures (SOP) for the three-day RWMF to be held at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV), Abdul Karim said daily attendees capacity have been restricted to about 5,000 per day, a decrease compared to the previous editions of the festival before the pandemic.

“I’m very proud of how far our homegrown product has come. From a humble beginning of around 300 spectators for its first-ever concert back in 1998, to becoming one of the first hybrid festivals of its kind in Malaysia,” he said.

Abdul Karim said the objective of this year’s RWMF, to be held from June 17 to 19, was to ‘bring people back together’, adding that the festival would be one of the first international hybrid musical events in Malaysia after the reopening of its borders.

“As this year marks the Silver Jubilee of the RWMF, the convergence of conventional and digital concept of music festivals is an indication of the seamless transition into the digital age we live in today,” he said.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Abdul Karim said the festival was held virtually last year and had achieved a commendable success with a total of 402,865 viewers watching the musical performances from 79 countries.

Aside from the physical performances on stage, he said viewers this year can enjoy ‘virtual jam sessions’ in the form of collaborative pre-recorded video performances between local and international talents that will be shown on the stage screen and via online streaming.

Abdul Karim said the globally renowned RWMF had a steady pool of followers around the globe, and a series of events will be held around the period of the festival, including the Spartan Race and the Borneo Jazz Festival.

He said travellers who came for RWMF would also take the opportunity to visit other tourism sites in Sarawak, and this augurs well for the tourism industry players, such as homestay operators, hoteliers and airline companies.

“With open arms, I welcome all world music aficionados from all around the globe to re-connect and rekindle the spirit of the RWMF as how it has always been for the past 25 years.

“And now with a hybrid concept, let’s create new wonderful memories as the world unites and celebrates the power of music,” said Abdul Karim.

As for this year’s targeted 1.2 million visitor arrivals, Abdul Karim said the state was on track to achieve that target at the end of the year based on the satisfactory tourist arrivals for the first three months this year.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor hoped this year’s hybrid format of RWMF will serve as a keystone for the next 25 years of the festival.

“Last year’s Virtual Experience gave us invaluable feedback on how we could work towards combining the best of both worlds, physical and the digital, to create RWMF’s first hybrid edition this year and also the first of its kind in Malaysia,” she said.

She said shuttle buses will be stationed in the city centre to facilitate movement of visitors to the SCV for the music festival, and more details will be made available soon.

Sharzede added that workshops will be organised throughout the three-day musical festival, involving cultural snippets, kiddies club and sape gatherings.

Responsible tourism will continue to be prioritised during the festival, with initiatives like tree planting and ban on single-use plastic water bottles, she added.

Among those present during the official launching ceremony of RWMF 2022 were the ministry’s permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, Sarawak Tourism Board chairman Dennis Ngau, MASwings chief operating officer Captain Nasaruddin A Bakar and Malaysia Airlines global head of marketing Wong Wai Kuan.