Sabah will struggle to manage Covid-19 surge, warns think tank

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy says states with fewer Covid-19 cases should deploy their resources to Sabah.

PETALING JAYA: A think tank has warned that Sabah will struggle to manage the Covid-19 outbreak and called on states with fewer cases to deploy resources there.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said he was concerned about the situation in Sabah, particularly the increasing number and proportion of cases not linked to clusters.

“It is clear that community spread of Covid-19 has occurred within the Sabah population, perhaps for a while now and it is not about the migrant population,” he told FMT.

A week ago, Azrul said, unlinked cases accounted for about 17% of new cases in Sabah, and two days ago, they accounted for 91% of new cases.

Azrul Mohd Khalib.

“The increased testing conducted by the health ministry will result in more Covid-19 cases being detected,” he said.

Sabah has been hit the hardest by new infections, with 271 cases recorded yesterday and a total of 3,291 cases to date. As of yesterday, eight districts were red zones with more than 40 active cases. A number of districts are also under lockdown.

With limited resources and geographical challenges, Azrul said, Sabah will struggle to manage the outbreak.

“It will need all the help it can get to treat those found to be positive but also to encourage people to come forward to be screened.”

Azrul said the stigma, discrimination and “fear” of quarantine made it more difficult to detect and treat people, as well as control the spread of the virus.

“In many households across Sabah, a day used for testing is a day lost in wages which go towards paying bills, putting food and drinks on the table and ensuring that households do not face financial hardship.

“Imagine what would happen if people are found positive for Covid-19 and placed in mandatory quarantine for treatment. It will break local economies, cause families to slip into poverty and make households become desperate.”

He said there was an urgent need to not only control the spread of the disease but also to manage the consequences of the efforts taken to control it.

“We need all hands on deck in Sabah, for resources from other states to be mobilised. Sabah cannot solely depend on federal aid. Sarawak and Selangor should step up and help,” he said.