Reconsider 10km travel restriction for Sarawak, MP urges govt

Members of the public are required to obtain written permission from the police if they plan to travel beyond 10km from their homes during the MCO period.

PETALING JAYA: Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii today urged the health ministry to reconsider restricting people from seeking treatment at medical facilities in Sarawak that are located more than 10km from their homes in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba announced the prohibition yesterday as a new regulation gazetted under the Prevention and Control of Diseases Act 1988.

The regulation also bans people from purchasing food and other daily necessities beyond 10km from their residence. They are required to obtain prior written permission from the police if they plan to travel beyond the 10km radius during the movement control order (MCO).

In a statement today, Yii – who recently recovered from Covid-19 – said the regulation adds unnecessary bureaucracy for patients seeking medical attention and is inconvenient for those living in rural areas.

“While I understand the reasoning behind such regulations, especially during an outbreak such as this, I urge the minister to take into consideration the local demographics of Sarawak and access to healthcare for rural folks, who comprise a huge chunk of the population in Sarawak,” he said.

“A district clinic may not provide the necessary medical attention, making it a necessity for people to travel further to the hospitals which are normally in the city,” he added.

Yii said in Sarawak, the main treatment centres for cancer and cardiac patients are in Kuching, adding that people in the northern regions of the state may need to fly to Kuching for other specialised treatment as well.

Even for residents of Kuching, the Sarawak Heart Center is in Kota Samarahan, some 25km away.

Noting that the regulation may prevent follow-ups and medicine refilling for patients with non-communicable diseases or other chronic ailments, Yii said pregnant mothers seeking pre-natal care and babies due for scheduled vaccinations will also be affected by the regulation.

“That is why I see no reason to add bureaucracy and inconvenience for the public, especially by forcing them to register at a police station for such travels beyond 10km for medical attention,” said Yii.

“I believe proper documentation of hospital or clinic appointments, or even proper medicine prescriptions, are sufficient to be shown at roadblocks or inspections.

“Such trips are often out of necessity. No one wants to take a casual trip to the hospital at such times. That is why I hope the ministry will give special consideration or exempt Sarawak from this regulation.”