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COMMENT | A plea to help Sabah in the Covid-19 crisis

Disclaimer: I am not in any way undermining or belittling the efforts of the government in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. The collective effort of all the frontliners (both healthcare and in other ministries) have safeguarded the country from Covid-19 till today. They are the reason that many of us are able to go about our daily lives in relative normalcy.

COMMENT | Since Sept 1, Sabah has recorded nearly 10,000 cases making up 40 percent of all cases in Malaysia since the start of our Covid-19 fight (22,957 cases as of Oct 23).

Since early September, it also recorded 78 deaths - that is 36 percent of total deaths in the country since the start of the pandemic here.

My heart sinks when I look at these numbers.

To help or not to help?

Many have asked - why is there a need for donations, be it monetary or in personal protective equipment (PPE), when the Health Ministry has stated that we have adequate PPE stocks and are prepared for this new wave?

When confronted with the question of whether it needs help, often the typical answer by administrators is “we are managing but we will appreciate your contribution”.

When the ministry reactivated its 'Sumbangan Perubatan KKM' account to receive donations, the reason it gave was not that it needed money. Instead, it was to provide a channel for the public to contribute to the government’s efforts against Covid-19.

What we need to understand is this - when the ministry asks for help, it needs to tread a delicate balance between seeking assistance and reassuring the public.

This is the same reason frontliners in Sabah are tight-lipped over the situation on the ground, and why some have been told off by superiors for revealing “sensitive details”.

So considering all this, to help or not to help?

The answer is - Sabah needs your help.

In the earlier wave of Covid-19, many NGOs stepped up to support financially and through donating medical equipment and PPE. Some even made DIY PPE for frontliners.

This taught us that every Malaysian has a part to play in fighting this pandemic.

And now, the Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah himself has asked for volunteers and NGOs to help again, this time in Sabah.

How can you help?

If you are able to donate, the Malaysian Medical Association and Mercy Malaysia Sabah Chapter have set up a Sabah Covid-19 fund.

All proceeds will go to the purchase of medical supplies, equipment, PPE and other related Covid-19 relief.

If you have items/PPE to donate, Mercy Sabah is also able to coordinate distribution. 

If you can’t spare anything, you can still help by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to break the chain of transmissions.

The Health director-general said public complacency and non-adherence to SOPs during the election was the cause for the spread in Sabah, and not the election per se.

But we cannot expect the public to adhere to the SOPs all the time, especially in large crowds.

We can’t organise large gatherings and concerts, and then blame public complacency when cases rise.

We brought cases down during the first months of the movement control order because these gatherings did not happen.

The flurry of movements before and after the state election was an obvious contributor to the rise in cases we see today.

There should be no more gatherings and mass movements of people if we are serious about bringing cases down and handling this pandemic.

Avoiding large crowds, social distancing and wearing a mask should by now be second nature to all.

Today, many are still coughing away with their masks wrapped under their chin, while others remove their masks to speak on the phone - defeating the purpose of the mask in the first place.

Wear a mask and wear it properly.

Adhere to the SOPs regardless of whether we agree with them or not - to help Sabah and help in the fight against Covid-19, this is the least we can do.


DR TIMOTHY CHENG is a member of the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) Kuala Lumpur chapter. He represents MMA Kuala Lumpur's section concerning house officers and medical officers.

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