Sabah docs fear the worst as they brace for more Covid-19 cases

A sense of regret and disappointment were visible in their voices.

As politics continues to hog the limelight in Sabah, medical personnel in the state are quietly bracing for the worst.

Since Sept 1, the Borneo state has recorded over 1,000 Covid-19 cases. It is a worrying sign as locals continue to be in close contact with some even defying the basic standard operating procedures by hugging each other and gathering close to one another.

The state election has been the biggest culprit. But none are willing to go on record to say it.

The medical workers are mostly government staff who cannot voice their opinions publicly without permission from their higher-ups. And the official script would be “everything is under control”.

“For now things seem to be under control but we fear for the worst. Just look at how people were gathering before the campaigning period,” said a specialist based in Kota Kinabalu.

“Some of them weren’t even wearing their masks right. Others were so close to one another.”

The government imposed the targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO) in Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak and Semporna starting Sept 29 until Oct 12 after 1,195 cases were recorded in those districts since Sept 1.

“But do these politicians care? They will make public statements but it is the frontliners who will have to clean their mess,” said another frustrated doctor.

“They seem eager to fight each other for power instead of fighting the Covid-19 war.”

Such frustration is legitimate. During the early days of the fight against the pandemic, volunteers had to step in and sew personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners. Halls and exhibition venues were turned into quarantine centres to ease the burden on overcrowded hospitals.

“Just look at the images during the campaigning period. Politicians and their followers had placed face masks under their chins despite repeated warnings not to do so by the ministry,” a doctor added.

“Then you see some of the politicians avoiding handshakes but their shoulders are rubbing those around them. They are supposed to set an example but have repeatedly failed to do so.”

As doctors in Sabah await more Covid-19 patients to show up at hospitals, confusion continues to reign over those who leave the state as they are only required to undergo self-quarantine until they get their swab test results.

If negative, they are required to go to the nearest government hospital or clinic to get the mandatory pink band removed. If positive, they will then head to the hospital for further treatment.

The swab test results will take some three days.

This differs from the mandatory 14-day quarantine for those who returned from abroad. For the record, the average incubation period for Covid-19 — from exposure to the virus to the beginning of the symptoms — is five to six days.

Even the Malaysia Medical Association is concerned with the situation. The association, in a statement yesterday, suggested that returnees from Sabah be placed in quarantine centres.

There are also concerns about manpower and facilities as the medical officials hope people will strictly adhere to the SOPs and avoid gathering in public areas.

“All we can do is wait and see and like our politicians love to say, pray for the best,” the doctor added.

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