Sarawak’s Covid-19 one-year anniversary reflection: A journey of struggle and hope


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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, March 13: Exactly a year ago today, Sarawak confirmed its first three cases of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) in its capital city of Kuching.

And 365 days later as of yesterday (March 12), the cumulative number of positive cases in the State has grown to 12,051, which indicates an average of at least 33 cases recorded per day in the last one year.

The number of recovered cases had risen to 9,590 while the death toll stood at 89.

As March 11 marked the world’s one-year anniversary since World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 as a pandemic, today let’s all be reminded that the virus has been invading this ‘Land of the Hornbill’ for 12 long months now and changed our lives forever.

Today is the 366th day of this endless war where the government and the people continued to struggle with a balance between lives and livelihoods.

Much of life came to a standstill as Sarawak, Malaysia and the whole world tried to halt the pandemic. The nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) first enforced on March 18 to 31 was the beginning of this ‘new normal’ where movement and physical contact were restricted and facial masks and hand sanitisers became the essentials of any household’s grocery list.

Facial masks with different designs.

Every sector of communities scrambled to find ways to unlearn, relearn and adapt to the new normal dictated by the deadly pandemic and public health mandates of the country.

Gestures such as hand shakes, high fives, fist bumps and hugs were somewhat prohibited.

Coughing and sneezing in public would turn heads, and if in offices, employers might just send workers home or to the nearest clinic for the cringey nasopharyngeal and throat swabs.

When business premises were allowed to operate, booklets with scribbles of names and phone numbers, thermal scanners, QR codes and hand sanitisers became the only rightful set up in front of stores, coffeeshops and restaurants.

Does anybody ever wonder, in a post-coronavirus world, would people still be comfortable going outdoors without face masks or shaking another person’s hand without later spraying some sanitisers, just to feel safe?

Would handshake be killed in a post-coronavirus society?

As of yesterday (March 12), Sibu ranked first in the highest cumulative number of positive cases by division with a total of 5,051 cases.

This was followed by Kuching (1,631), Miri (1,577), Bintulu (1,015), Kapit (975), Sarikei (520), Betong (398), Mukah (308), Samarahan (295), Sri Aman (131), Serian (121) and Limbang (39).

Sibu, again, topped the death toll list with 54 recorded fatalities, according to the Sarawak Covid-19 Tracker 2020 at covid19.sarawak.com.my accessed through Sarawak’s very own Covid-19 trace mobile application, the Qmunity app.

The rest of the divisions were Kuching with 14 fatalities, Miri (7), Bintulu (6), Samarahan (4), while Kapit, Limbang, Sri Aman and Betong has one fatality each.

Of course, there were good days and there were bad days. For several months towards the end of 2020, the number of cases in the whole of Sarawak was reduced to one-digit and sometimes no case at all.

The latest outbreak in January this year, however, spiked the chart to high three-digit figures almost every day, with a record-high of 353 cases on Feb 24.

Covid-19 progress chart in Sarawak since March, 2020. Chart taken from Sarawak Covid-19 Tracker 2020.

Despite that, the Sarawak government and frontliners persevered and worked tirelessly to navigate adeptly through the changing circumstances by efficiently implementing different stages of measures through Conditional MCO (CMCO), Recovery MCO (RMCO), Enhanced MCO (EMCO) and Targeted Enhanced MCO (TEMCO) in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Knowing that movement restrictions and other standard operating procedures (SOP) would adversely affect those in various strata of life, the government through the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) 1.0 to 5.0, has allocated a total of RM3.06 billion to alleviate the people’s burden due to the pandemic.

Sarawakians, other than not having to pay a single cent for swab tests as well as accommodation and food during quarantines, all above 18 years old are also eligible for free vaccination since the State vaccine rollout on Feb 26.

To date, a total of 26,844 vaccination shots have been given out especially to frontliners and medical personnel under Phase One of the National Immunisation Programme in Sarawak.

Second and third phase of the vaccination for Covid-19 high-risk groups, healthy adults as well as foreign workers involving over two million people is expected to commence in April until August.

Though the end of this battle with this invisible enemy is in sight, the journey to achieving a herd community of at least 70 per cent of Sarawak population vaccinated is not yet over.

As State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had said: “With the commitment of the vaccination programme, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a tremendous challenge ahead. To win it, we need the cooperation and collaboration of each and every Sarawakian.” —DayakDaily