Foreign workers in timber camps and plantations could spark new chain of infections

By S. Harrish

THOUSANDS of foreign workers at remote timber camps and oil palm plantations in rural Sarawak should be screened for Covid-19 immediately.

The Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) said the state government leaders and health authorities need to look into the matter urgently as the coronavirus could easily spread among them.

“This is due to their cramped living conditions, just like the situation in longhouses now.

“There are thousands of foreign labourers, especially Indonesians, employed in logging camps and plantations,” Scrips secretary-general Michael Jok told The Vibes.

He said there was a high possibility that these foreign workers have not been screened for Covid-19 as their camps are in remote pockets throughout the state.

“In my home district of Belaga, there are at least 10 big timber and plantation companies.

“They have huge camps all over their operation zones where these foreign workers work and live,” he said.

“Their living quarters are known to be congested and cramped.”

Jok stressed that any Covid-19 case among these foreign workers would spark a chain of infections that could spread to surrounding local settlements, too.

The native rights activist was commenting on the latest findings by the Sarawak Labour Department that many companies who employ foreign workers have not sent them for mandatory Covid-19 screening.

It was found that at least 10,000 workers in four southern Sarawak districts from various foreign countries have not been sent by their employers for the compulsory Covid-19 tests.