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10 APRIL 2024

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Events for the dead fuelling Covid-19 in Sabah villages


Health authorities are zooming in on a series of funeral events that are believed to be contributing to outbreaks of Covid-19 in Kota Belud, Sabah.

Between Nov 22 and today, the Kota Belud district health office has sent out 15 notices seeking individuals who attended funerals, 'kenduri arwah' and visits made to the families of those deceased in seven villages to be tested for Covid-19.

Based on the notices, it is understood that the affected gatherings had taken place between Nov 11 and 21 at the following villages, namely Kampung Menunggui, Kampung Tawadakan, Kampung Pantai Emas, Kampung Merabau, Kampung Nanamun, Kampung Lebak Moyoh, and Kampung Tempasuk 1.

One of the events had since become a Covid-19 infection cluster. The cluster, known as the Tempasuak Cluster, was announced by the Health Ministry yesterday and has recorded 12 cases.

Malaysiakini learned that authorities are facing a hard time getting cooperation from villagers there when it comes to such events, which is a part of the people's tradition since the time of their ancestors.

According to a local political leader, the communities also lack awareness when it comes to anti-Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs), hence why they continue to hold gatherings during the pandemic.

"The villagers still hold to the old customs which have been practised since a long time ago. When it comes to SOPs, they do not really follow the procedures.

"This is the issue at villages here in Kota Belud. There is a lack of understanding of SOPs," said Fadli Juanas.

Fadli, who is the Kota Belud Umno division chief, said that communities in the district practice a culture where they would hold visits to families who have just lost their loved ones.

During these visits, the people would each bring a food basket which they would then share with the affected family. The latter would also prepare their food baskets, which would, in turn, be shared with those who paid them a visit.

This tradition has been so entrenched in the people of Kota Belud, that they still continue doing it despite the risk of catching the virus.

"If we look at the trend of cases (in Sabah), Kota Belud has quite a number of positive cases. There are villages who are now still under the enhanced movement control order (due to the high number of cases).

"According to SOPs, only a maximum of 20 persons are allowed to be at a gathering. But in such a kenduri, you cannot stop people from coming," he said.

Sources involved in fighting the pandemic in Kota Belud have also expressed disappointment over the matter.

"Don't ask me. You should ask the people who have been organising all the kenduri, why they still do it," said a source when contacted by Malaysiakini.

As of noon yesterday, Kota Belud recorded 13 new positive cases, bringing the number of active cases in the district to 98.

Meanwhile, Sabah cabinet minister Masidi Manjun (photo) when contacted for comments, said the state government has been working to increase awareness about the pandemic through its information campaign.

He said that the people's attitude in following SOPs would be the determining factor to ensure success in breaking the chain of Covid-19 infection.

"Information campaigns and health education are done every day by various government machinery such as the Information Department, RTM, police, Health Department, and the local governments throughout the state.

"This is done at the same time when our frontliners are working non-stop to ensure the people's wellbeing and health.

"And the ordinary people, meaning our own attitude, is one of the biggest factors to be successful in fighting this pandemic," he said. - Mkini

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