Uggah: Sarawak managing Covid-19 pandemic with ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 20: Sarawak is not controlling but managing the Covid-19 pandemic with a “circuit breaker”, which is a tight set of restrictions, to curb the surge of cases across the State.

State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas pointed out that changes were made to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) according to the situation in Sarawak especially in districts classified as Covid-19 red zones.

“We don’t control the pandemic but manage it and that’s why we keep changing the SOPs (with latest measures) taken to close all schools in the red zones.

“The reason is, for example Kuching has seven positive cases and the health authority has to trace some 800 close contacts. So if the number (of cases) increases, that will be a burden and the healthcare sector will face more difficulties,” he told a press conference when giving updates on the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak here today.

Uggah, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, pointed out that all divisions in Sarawak are currently working on their SOPs to activate certain circuit breaker measures like suspending certain activities that could lead to gatherings.

“We have these circuit breaker measures so you can see schools in red zones are closed as well as suspension of some activities as there are cases which are a result of inter-zone or inter-district travel, gatherings, meetings and dining together.

“If you notice, a few days ago, we advised government departments not to have face-to-face meetings but (conduct them) via Zoom. So we are managing (the pandemic with stricter restrictions),” he said.

Crowding, gatherings and non-compliance with SOPs, he reiterated, were the main factors contributing to the spread of infections as evident in the dormitory at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol), some schools, the prison in Sri Aman and the detention centre in Serian.

“Hence, police have been mobilised to beef up enforcement manpower as people need to be constantly reminded on adherence to SOP. That’s why we have compounded the police station and a school principal in Miri (for non-compliance).

“Due to an increase of cases in certain divisions, some of them are proposing (the setting up of) new PKRC (Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centres) and some asking for more ventilators,” he added.

While the health authorities are trying their best to cope with the evolving situation, Uggah emphasised the Federal Health Minister Dato Sri Dr Adham Baba during his recent visit to Sarawak has agreed to send additional staff and equipment as well as upgrade facilities especially testing labs in Sarawak.

“The Ministry (of Health) are sending backup staff with some 300 officers expected to arrive in batches. Some 40 of them have arrived today.

“We are meeting every morning and getting reports from all divisions. This is the way for us to manage it (the pandemic) in Sarawak. It is not easy and I have lost a lot of hair already,” he said.

Uggah reiterated calls for the public not to disregard advice from the State government and health authorities to follow SOPs, wear face masks, observe physical distancing as well as avoid crowded places and gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. — DayakDaily