KUCHING, May 29 – For two years in a row now, Timothy Upai Lindris, has not gone back to Limbang, Sarawak to celebrate Gawai Dayak, a rice harvest festival.

Not because of work or that his holiday request was rejected, but because he’s anxious about the COVID-19 situation.

“If you love your family, why risk it just to spend two days with them. Let us make the sacrifice for now and bear the sorrow of not being able to meet for two years,” said the 31-year-old working in Kuala Lumpur.

Other natives must be feeling the same way and resigned to the fact that they can’t meet up during the celebration to curb the spread of the virus which has caused cases to increase manifold in Sarawak.

In December 2020, Health Director-General, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, lauded Sarawak as a shining example in controlling the spread of COVID-19 with just 1,117 cases recorded from March – December.

This year, however, the number of daily cases jumped to triple digits in a span of five months, with the total reaching 45,436 yesterday (May 28).

Last year, 22 deaths were registered between March and December, but now the death toll has risen to 276 (as at May 28), which is truly worrying.

According to Sarawak acting health director, Dr Rosemawati Ariffin, the average number of daily deaths from COVID-19 increased three-fold in three months, with an average three deaths per day in May compared to just one in March last year.

She also said that there was a surge in daily cases during the Aidilfitri period (May 9 – 15) with 3,272 cases reported, while from May 16 – 22, daily cases averaged 596.

“Beds in Sarawak’s intensive care units (ICU) have reached a critical level. There are 83 COVID-19 patients who are still critically ill with 32 hooked up to a ventilator,” she said.

Due to the situation, Julie Nedi, 35, a Bidayuh working for a telco in Kuching, decided she would stay put with her husband and three children during Gawai Dayak.

Although her kampung in the Pedawan district is not far away, she wants to be a responsible citizen and stop the spread of the virus.

“It’s OK if we don’t get to celebrate or meet up with family. We’re giving our full cooperation because we’re worried about our aged parents. Their welfare is more important,” she said.

Iban longhouse headman, Ritchie Lantan, 58, from Kampung Tegelam in the Simunjan district has banned his nibling working in the capital from returning to celebrate.

“We must never lower our guard. Look at what has happened to Sarawak. We were applauded for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and not recording new cases for a while, but now see what has happened?” he said.


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