KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Labuan, a small island off Sabah, has been struck the hardest by the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia, Labuan MP Rozman Isli revealed.
On November 16, the Covid-19 case incidence rate in Labuan, with a population of about 100,000, was 1,184 cases per 100,000 population, more than twice compared to Sabah, Rozman said.
“Number one highest in the country in terms of percentage or rate per capita. More than two times than Sabah,” the Labuan MP told the Dewan Rakyat while debating on Budget 2021 last Wednesday.
“Many of my associates and close friends have been infected with Covid-19, including some who died.”
It was previously pointed out by former deputy Health director-general (public health) Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman last October 27 about the high incidence rate of Covid-19 cases in Labuan due to its small population. He said that Labuan only has a small district hospital and that the health care system in the island neighbouring Sabah may be overwhelmed.
Furthermore, Rozman pointed out that even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many low-income citizens in Labuan suffered difficulties in seeking treatment, especially specialist treatment in the public sector.
“For those who have heart disease, cancer, eye…among them…forced to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu because the treatment is not there yet in Labuan,” the Warisan lawmaker said.
“In a state of pain and lack of money, they are forced to seek help here and there.”
Moreover, Rozman said patients from his constituency of Labuan, a federal territory, have to take a two-hour ferry ride, and then ride a bus for an additional two and half hours to reach the Sabah state capital of Kota Kinabalu.
“Minister of Health can check — the bed occupancy rate in Labuan hospital is pretty low because many patients are forced to go to Kota Kinabalu,” Rozman said.
Rozman also highlighted that under the leadership of the Labuan state health director, the number of doctors and equipment have significantly increased in Labuan Hospital, but the hospital still doesn’t have major specialties.
With a specialist hospital in Labuan, Rozman said that its services may not only be extended to Labuan, but also to areas in the south of Sabah.
“How can Labuan, which has the status of an international finance centre and oil and gas logistics hub, have no major specialist hospital?” Rozman said.
Rozman claimed that the main reason for the spread of infectious disease in Labuan is because of the high number of squatter houses, occupied mainly by undocumented immigrants.
“I have already said before in Parliament, repeating what has been mentioned by the health director of Labuan, about the squatter villages and that area is a time bomb for infectious diseases.”
Besides that, Rozman also said that he is against the implementation of taxes on tobacco in all duty-free islands, including Labuan, as announced by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz when tabling Budget 2021.
“I myself don’t smoke,” Rozman said. “But I am against it because it will only make the Labuan economy worse.”
He said that it may not have much impact on other duty-free islands, but most of the domestic tourists from Sabah and Sarawak come to Labuan because of the duty-free shopping, including tobacco products.