Sabah stops barter trade to check spread of Covid-19

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal speaks to reporters after chairing a Sabah Security Council meeting in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has stopped barter trade with the Philippines and Indonesia until the Covid-19 outbreak is under control.

Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal also announced that the export of live fish will be halted, although he did not say if eight boats from Hong Kong waiting to load the fish in Tawau will get their supplies.

The state government revived barter trade with the two countries at the end of August last year, after the previous government banned it because of security reasons on the Sabah east coast.

Barter trade is carried out in Kudat, Sandakan and Tawau, generating about RM2 million in revenue for the state.

Speaking after chairing a Sabah Security Council meeting at the Sabah Administrative Complex here today, Shafie said a stimulus package to assist Sabahans affected by the pandemic and the movement control order would be announced tomorrow after the state Cabinet meeting.

He declined to give details of the package, which had been scheduled to be unveiled only in April.

He also said that all palm oil plantations in Kinabatangan and at Felda Sahabat Lahad Datu would be closed temporarily, following seven people testing positive for Covid-19 at a timber plantation in Tawau.

The closure will be from tomorrow to March 31, he said, adding that workers would be allowed to harvest the oil palm today to ensure minimum wastage.

The Sabah Softwood timber plantation in Bukit Batu, Kalabakan, also had to cease operations temporarily on March 19 after two of its workers tested positive for Covid-19.

Shafie also said that 17 individuals who had returned from Sulawesi, Indonesia, were presently undergoing quarantine in Tawau.

He said they were part of the Malaysian group who returned to Sabah following the cancellation of the World Ijtimak Tabligh in Sulawesi, by the Indonesian government.

He said authorities were expecting nine more to return soon.

“Most of them are from Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Tawau,” he said, adding that authorities were not certain how many Sabahans had gone to the religious event.

Unofficial records, however, indicate that 27 Sabahans were among the 83 Malaysians who had gone to Sulawesi.

Sabah has 177 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, with Tawau heading the list with 50, Lahad Datu 34 and Kota Kinabalu 24.

A total of 366 people are being quarantined at designated centres while 2,604 are on home quarantine.