As Sarawak climbs to top with Covid-19 cases, ex-state minister urges authorities to check movement of office cleaners

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Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh addresses a press conference in Kuching January 23, 2021. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh addresses a press conference in Kuching January 23, 2021. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Sept 6 — The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) should look to regulate the movement of office cleaners to slow the state’s exponential increase in Covid-19 cases, Parti Sarawak Bersatu president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said today.

A former state second finance minister, Wong suggested that office cleaners who lived in rural areas may unknowingly be spreading the viral disease in urban centres, particularly Kuching.

“Most of these cleaners come from nearby kampungs and work as cleaners, moving from premises to premises to do cleaning in the mornings and afternoons.

“It may not be a coincidence that office clusters appear to be on the rise despite eateries being banned from accepting dine-ins,” Wong said.

The Opposition party leader said there had not been any reports of kopitiam or food court clusters so far and asked how the disease had been spreading among office workers.

Wong also urged the SDMC if it had considered poor ventilation in offices as factors for infections, pointing out that most offices are fully air-conditioned and confined spaces, and that some do not even have windows.

“If strict enforcement and adherence to the standard operating procedures and preventive measures were not taken after an office had been infected, what assurance is there that it will not recur?” he asked.

Sarawak recorded 3,714 new Covid-19 cases today, overtaking Selangor as the state with the most infections.

Wong also urged SDMC to refrain from using the term “herd immunity” to refer to the 85 per cent of eligible Sarawakian adults who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

“For starters, this ‘herd immunity’ had been repeatedly used as a catchphrase by Sarawak’s state government leaders as well as SDMC to reassure the people at large that ‘things are under control’ as the vaccination programme was rolled out,” he said.

He cited the World Health Organisation and said herd immunity varied according to diseases.

“For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95 per cent of a population to be vaccinated while the remaining 5 per cent will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated.

“For polio, the threshold is about 80 per cent.

“The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known,” he said.

“In short, ‘herd immunity’ under Covid-19 is still not clearly known, meaning there are no clear-cut answers to this.

“Hence, the less we harp on ‘herd immunity’ the better, lest people may be misled into believing that life is returning to normal, which is unlikely to be, given the circumstances we are facing,” he said.

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