Fearful of Covid-19 swab tests, Penan villagers flee homes

Health officials found empty homes upon arrival at Long Iman – Dayak Daily photo

A REMOTE village along the Melinau River was deserted when health officials arrived yesterday to conduct Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests on its residents there.

It is believed that they fled their homes in Long Iman due to unfounded fears over the Covid-19 test, Dayak Daily reported.

The remote Penan village is located along the Melinau River, some 15 minutes on a longboat away Mulu National Park, deep in the interior of the area.

Fire and Rescue Department Miri zone chief PgKB I Law Poh Kiong was quoted as saying that a team of four firefighters from Mulu conducted a humanitarian aid operation by sending six medical officers to the village this afternoon.

“However, upon arrival, they found that all the villagers had fled because they were afraid of having the swab tests conducted on them,” he said.

The team left the village at 3pm to make their ways back to Mulu.

The medical and support team that went to Long Iman to conduct Covid-19 swab tests – Dayak Daily photo

Meanwhile, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau pleaded with the villagers not to leave, the same news portal reported.

He added that there had been 100 infections involving the community, with two deaths so far.

“Please understand, these medical officers who showed up in your village have no ill intentions to just simply poke your nose and throat. They only want to ensure that all of you are clean and test negative for the virus.

“We have had runaway cases, with some fleeing into the jungle. In the end, some 100 Penans from various villages tested positive for Covid-19 and two deaths were recorded. Is that what you want?” he asked.

He also urged the Penans to work together and cooperate with the Health Department and Sarawak government to ensure the safety of their respective communities and families.