No hugging please, Abdul Karim warns rural folks as Covid-19 cases rise in outlying areas

Roadblock at Pasai Siong, Sibu where a number of longhouses are under lockdown. File Photo

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By Karen Bong, Ling Hui and Lian Cheng

KUCHING, April 16: Rural folks have been reminded to refrain from hugging or any form of physical contact, especially at funerals as such social gestures are no longer safe due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah gave this advice as he noted that social gatherings and activities such as funerals have contributed to the spike in Covid-19 cases in Sarawak.


He observed that a lot of people in the rural areas have not fully adjusted and adapted to the new normal, notably avoiding close contact with others, which is one of the key measures to prevent virus spread.

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

“No doubt during funerals, we are sad and would normally give a hug to provide comfort to someone through bereavement, grief and loss.

“But during this critical period of managing the pandemic, we have to refrain from hugging and cut back on physical contact as much as possible. We have to be cautious at all times,” he told DayakDaily in an interview today.

Abdul Karim also pointed out that lack of access to new information speedily from the Internet as the pandemic situation evolved could be one of the factors that led to the low compliance in standard operating procedures (SOP) especially in rural areas.

“As a result, it is reflected in the increase in the number of cases from gatherings like funerals, apart from other social activities in villages.

“You don’t see this in the urban areas, I think,” he added.

Despite that, Abdul Karim expressed satisfaction with the fairly high level of awareness of the dangers of Covid-19 and compliance with SOP among all stratum of society in urban areas.

“People will automatically check-in and take their body temperatures wherever they go and upon entering any premises. This means that people know what to do.

“So, there’s nothing to be overly worried about but of course along the way, there are bound to be some leakages and some cases may emerge.

“However, note that the bulk of the cases are targeted, happening in prisons, depots or training centres which are contained in these areas,” he explained.

Looking at the number of Covid-19 fatalities, which he opined were considered very low and mainly affecting the elderly with comorbidities, Abdul Karim emphasised that the most important thing to do right now is self-care.

“It is essential to protect ourselves and take good care of our health by practising strict hygiene and taking steps to boost our immunity against sickness like taking Vitamin C, eating healthy food and exercising. And those with existing health problems have to be extra careful,” he advised.

Abdul Karim highlighted that people with zero or a low amount of health complications can recover from Covid-19 with proper treatment and self-care.

“There is no big hoo-ha, more so now that vaccination has been rolled out to immunise people and create herd immunity against the virus but that itself is not foolproof against getting infected.

“But if we look after ourselves well and fully comply with the SOP and restrictions, I don’t think there is a major problem. We can stay safe,” he added. — DayakDaily