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Health workers conduct Covid-19 screening at a close contact screening counter at the Labuan Sports Complex, June 10, 2021. — Bernama pic
Health workers conduct Covid-19 screening at a close contact screening counter at the Labuan Sports Complex, June 10, 2021. — Bernama pic

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KUCHING, Sept 7 — The Sarawak government should heed public calls for a total lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo said today in response to the state accounting for the most new infections yesterday.

He claimed the spike in cases happened when the state government ignored the sentiments and views of the workers, civil society and the people calling for the full lockdown.

“We must call on employers, especially the connected ones and the business associations to support the full lockdown,” Lo said in a statement.

“Almost every business can survive a month or two of total lockdown, but most will die a slow and painful death as what is happening right now,” he said.

He said selective lockdown was inherently unfair as businesses allowed to open would be enjoying at the expense of those that have to shut down, adding that there must not be any exemption that has been handed out like timber concessions.

Lo, who is also the chief executive officer of the Sarawak Bank Employees Union (SBEU), said it was appalling that Sarawak’s revised movement control order 3.0 (MCO 3.0) would allow businesses, especially big factories with positive cases to continue operating as usual.

He added that the only sensible move is to announce a complete lockdown and provide wage subsidies for all workers in the private sector.

He blamed the almost a year of half measures, U-turns, confusing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and chest thumping by the state ministers for the state’s current Covid-19 situation.  

Lo also called on all Sarawakians to comply with the necessary measures to beat this pandemic, even if it meant losing their liberties and convenience.

“We hope it should not take more than one month. Otherwise, we will die a slow and painful death,” he said.

Lo said a self-lockdown without income security was impossible for workers struggling to put food on the table, saying that businesses and employers also need financial assistance.

Lo said he proposes the burden to be equally shared between the government, employers and workers.  

“The government should provide a one-third subsidy, employers to pay one-third and workers to sacrifice one-third of their wages, subject to minimum wage of RM1,200.

“The government must also be giving vaccination priority to workers involved in essential services as well as labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing and construction workers, since workplace clusters make up 60 per cent of total new clusters.  

“It must rope in all the medical clinics to assist in the vaccination programme ,instead of just doing it at a few centres,” Lo said, adding that the government must also ensure food security for all, including unemployed workers and migrant workers.

Sarawak yesterday registered 3,714 new Covid-19 cases, the highest number in the country, bringing the state’s cumulative figure to 134,612 infected.

According to the state Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), 3,710 cases or 99.89 per cent were asymptomatic or with mild symptoms while two more cases had lung infections and another two needed ventilators.

Kuching registered the highest number with 1,765 cases, Samarahan (358 cases), Sibu (276 cases), Bintulu (158 cases) and Asajaya (121 cases).

 The number of death cases in Sarawak continued to register two digits with 12 deaths reported yesterday, taking the death toll to 576 cases since March last year.

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