SMC chairman: CNY celebration must be curtailed to contain Covid-19 in Sibu

A screen grab of the live session between (from top) Ting, Dr Ooi, Dr Wong, Lau and Dr Tang as they go through yesterday (Feb 8)'s Covid-19 statistics in Sibu.

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By Karen Bong

SIBU, Feb 9: Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman Clarence Ting warned today that the traditionally boisterous Chinese New Year celebration in Sibu must be curtailed this year if “people want to see the Covid-19 figure go down”.

This came following advice from Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) senior paediatric consultant Dr Ooi Mong Hoi who observed a worrying trend of increased unlinked community cases which could indicate widespread community infections in Sibu town while the Pasai Cluster appears to have finally been tamed.

“If not, we will see another surge after Chinese New Year. We need to relook at how to celebrate and take things seriously,” he emphasised during a Facebook live session.

Dr Ooi, Dr Peter Tang of Rejang Medical Centre, Dr Wong Chya Wei of KPJ Sibu Specialist Medical Centre and Senator Robert Lau were among the guests in this live session aimed at providing better insight to the public on the seriousness of the local Covid-19 situation and creating greater awareness among Sibu community.

With 24 cases detected in Sibu yesterday (Feb 8), Ting asserted that it was no longer a Pasai matter, which so far has been the major contributor to the outbreak in Sibu after Christmas last year, but that for the entire Sibu.

“It is up to you, me and all of us to do our part,” he added.

Based on public health investigations, Dr Ooi pointed out that social activities which brought people together to mingle and gather as well as unrestricted movement were factors contributing to the spread of infections.

In the first wave in March last year, he explained, the Movement Control Order (MCO) had slowed down transmissions to allow health authorities to catch up quickly, while in the second wave, experience in contact tracing had helped Sarawak to get out from the situation in five weeks or so, and Sarawak also managed to cope with the third wave with targeted MCO, better public awareness and enhanced screening from both public and private healthcare facilities.

“This time around, the fourth wave (in Sibu) is more challenging as it has affected rural areas but it is also spilling back to town as people working in town also go back to longhouses on the weekend.

“That has allowed mixing (gathering) to take place and that is where things (infections) occurred. It spreads faster in a longhouse where there are many ‘bilik’ (rooms) and people live together,” he said of the communal dwelling lifestyle of longhouses.

On how the pandemic will play out in 2021 and beyond, Dr Ooi highlighted that Covid-19 is not going to go away in the next two to three years and clusters such as Pasai will not be the last if people are not vigilant and careful.

“I cannot tell how the situation will evolve in the next few weeks or months, and Chinese New Year is coming, which is a big thing in Sibu but we need to think of the future and skip this year’s celebration so that we can celebrate in many more years to come,” he said.

As there will be more obstacles expected in the months ahead with various holidays, festive celebrations and a state election coming, he acknowledged that collective fatigue and exhaustion have emerged but people must continue to be disciplined and change their behaviours to overcome this pandemic like how Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam have done so.

All of the guests agreed that the public need to remain vigilant in these trying times by complying strictly with standard operating procedures (SOPs) especially mask wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowds or gatherings or activities that would require close interactions, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“The faster we stop the spread, the faster we can recover,” Ting reiterated.

Meanwhile, Sarawak reported two Covid-19 fatalities in Sibu and 111 new cases today with Sibu registering the highest daily infections at 54 followed by Bintulu (12), Dalat (7), Kanowit (6), Kapit (5), two each in Beluru and Kuching and one each in Lawas and Betong.

This increased the state’s tally of positive cases to 5,871. — DayakDaily