KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — The Sarawak state government has decided not to strictly enforce a 10km movement restriction on residents forced to travel further to the nearest medical facility.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has met with the state police commissioner, who has decided to relax the regulation in certain rural areas that do not have access to health care services or other facilities like banking.
“The issue here is 10km, 10km if in the city, it’s not a problem, but in the rural areas,” Uggah told a press conference today.
“If you look even at my own longhouse, I cannot get a clinic within 10km from my longhouse, likewise with other facilities,” he added, referring to his home in Betong.
So, Sarawak police have decided to give exemptions to certain areas in the country’s biggest state.
“If there is no hospital, no clinic, no pharmacist within 10km, if they have to go 10 or 20 or 30km, the police will give them exemptions with these conditions.”
Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Frankie Poon Ming Fung told CodeBlue earlier today that Sabah would also give an exemption on the 10km rule for health care, pointing out that public radiotherapy services, for example, were only available in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu for cancer patients.
He also said government clinics could be more than 10km away from residents in Malaysia’s second-largest state.
Federal Health Minister Dr Adham Baba gazetted a regulation under the Prevention and Control of Diseases Act 1988 on March 31 that prohibited people from seeking health care or purchasing medicines at facilities located more than 10km from their homes, or facilities that are not nearest to their residence, until April 14. The same restriction applies to buying food and daily necessities.
April 14 is the targeted end date of the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) amid the Covid-19 outbreak that has infected over 3,000 people and killed 50 in Malaysia.
Uggah also said today that the state health department has been instructed to prepare 100 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for coronavirus patients. Sarawak General Hospital is a coronavirus-admitting facility with 1,000 beds.
“If all the beds is required, that means a strategy has got to be worked out to move out non-Covid patients from that hospital. That arrangement has been finalised, first using the Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan and Serian and Bau Hospital; we’ll make an arrangement with private hospitals for them for the facilities as well as the space.”
Starting April 5, visitors who come to Sarawak through land, sea, or air will be placed in quarantine centres for 14 days, Uggah said, highlighting a number of Covid-19 patients in Sarawak who acquired their infections from outside the state.
“This is in line with Kuala Lumpur, whoever returns from overseas to Kuala Lumpur will also be quarantined for 14 days,” Uggah said.
The state government is now looking for hotels to serve as quarantine centres, saying that one or two hotels have already been identified. The state will pay for use of these hotels.