Sibu Covid-19 outbreak has gone beyond the longhouses, says assistant minister

Dr Annuar Rapaee

By John Isaac

SIBU folk must take ownership in the fight against Covid-19 to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system, particularly as the virus has spread beyond the longhouses here where the outbreak initially began, said Dr Annuar Rapaee.

The Local Government and Housing Assistant Minister, who is Sibu Division Disaster Management Committee coordinator, urged the public here to discard the mentality that Covid-19 cases reported in the district were only confined to longhouse areas, cautioning that such thinking would only encourage people to let their guard down.

He cited the latest statistics which showed that only 27 per cent of Covid-19 cases reported here in the last few days involved longhouses, while about 70 per cent were detected in Sibu town.

“The majority of the reported cases in Sibu now are not at longhouses. To me, the virus has already assimilated into the Sibu community and no longer confined to longhouse areas.

“Therefore, it is very important for all of us to not assume that we (in town) are alright thinking that cases are only reported in longhouse area,” he stressed.

He said this during a Facebook Live session hosted by Sibu Municipal Council chairman Clarence Ting which also featured Sarawak General Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr Chua Hock Hin.

Dr Annuar said failure to strictly follow the standard operating procedures and seek early medical attention would place a tremendous burden on the four quarantine and low-risk treatment centres (PKRC) set up here to ease the burden of Sibu Hospital.

According to Borneo Post, he said the four PKRCs have 1,039 beds in total and between 40 and 50 per cent of the beds have already been taken up by patients.

“That is why it is most important for us to take ownership in the fight against Covid-19 and not rely entirely on the authorities. We can do our part by staying at home, avoiding crowded places and wearing face masks besides seeking immediate treatment when feeling unwell,” he said.

For those who have been swabbed but develop symptoms prior to their results being released, Dr Annuar urged them to immediately seek medical attention.

“We have noted several cases where the patients developed symptoms and waited for their test results instead of seeking immediate treatment,” he said.

Adding on, he said the committee is also considering placing under quarantine those who come into close contact with a Covid-19 case, in a bid to curb the virus from potentially spreading further.

“If a family member is tested positive for Covid-19, we may have to send the rest of the family members who have come into close contact with the case to a quarantine centre.”

On the PKRCs here at Methodist Centennial, Kemuyang Youth Camp, Ministry of Health Training Institute and Desa Sanyan Hostel, he explained that the facilities are for those who test positive for Covid-19 but are without symptoms.

Meanwhile, Dr Chua said the fact that Sibu continues to record high number of infections daily shows that the chain of transmission has yet to be broken.

“Covid-19 is very widespread in Sibu and not confined to longhouses (anymore) because of the movement of people which had occurred since the early part of January until the movement control order (MCO) was instituted,” he said.

He said there were those who developed mild symptoms like fever, cough, running nose and even sore throat, but still went to work as usual and also visited their elderly parents’ house and spread the virus there.

Ting, on his part, called on Sibu folk to follow closely the Chinese New Year standard operating procedures issued by Sarawak Disaster Management Committee.

He said while the traditional reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year is important for the community, family members who are unwell should not attend.

Sibu District yesterday recorded 55 new Covid-19 cases of which only one was linked to the Pasai Cluster which triggered the initial outbreak here.

The other infections were detected through active case detection (34), symptomatic screening (14), self-screening (5), and screening of healthcare worker (1), according to Sarawak Disaster Management Committee in its daily update.

The district remains a Covid-19 red zone and is under the Movement Control Order until Feb 14. — Borneo Post