Gawai Rush: Authorities urged to ban river public transport if violation of SOP persists

Screenshots from the viral video clip of passengers rushing in and out of express boats.

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KUCHING, May 28: Gawai rush leading to overcrowded express boats is still occurring in Kapit despite the tightening Covid-19 preventive measures including urgent appeals not to return to hometowns or longhouses to celebrate the festival.

A short video clip taken in Kapit depicting passengers getting off an express boat and more  boarding another express boat was worrying and in violation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) laid down by Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

This has led to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing calling for relevant agencies to take action against express boat operators and the passengers.

“The relevant ministry and agencies must take action against express boat operators including the passengers for defying the rulings of SDMC especially during the spike of Covid-19 pandemic in Kapit,” said Masing in a statement today.

Based on the video, he said social distancing was not considered as passengers got out of the boat.  

“If this defiance of SDMC rulings persists, the relevant ministry must put a stop to all express boats plying our rivers during the spike of Covid19.

“It is better be safe than sorry later,” said Masing who is also Infrastructure and Port Development Minister.

Apart from that, he also warned that if enforcement were to be weak during this Gawai Dayak festival, there will be a foreseeable surge of Covid-19 cases in this part of Sarawak.

“Unless the relevant ministries and agencies take the threat of Covid-19 seriously, the rural folks in Kapit during this coming Gawai will face the effect of this deadly virus,” said the Baleh assemblyman.

According to the SOPs SDMC on public transport, all public transport though allowed to operate, can only serve passengers at 50 per cent capacity.

Meanwhile, Kapit has been placed as red zone due to high number of Covid-19 cases.  For the last two weeks, the district has registered 418 cases including 33 new cases today. — DayakDaily