Nearly one year and 3 months since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed nationwide on 18 March 2020, Sabahans are enduring our 4th MCO or Full MCO (FMCO), without a single hint of improvement to the Covid situation and certainly without any glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

One would have thought that after so many rounds of MCO, the PN / BN government would be better in handling the lockdown situation, with clear lines of communication and easy to understand Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). But unfortunately, this is not the case.” – Vivian Wong

One week after the latest round of FMCO, there are even more confusion, frustration and outright annoyance in the way the government has been handling the Covid situation here.

10 issues which show that the government has failed totally in managing the current pandemic situation in the state:

  1. Lack of coordination between state and federal government

It is very obvious that all announcements made by federal ministers on our MCO / FMCO were done unilaterally without prior discussion with the Sabah state government. How else would one explain the “phenomenon” that after every major announcement by the federal government, the state government will inevitably issue a statement a day or 2 later to clarify whether Sabah will implement the same SOP as the federal government? To avoid confusion, shouldn’t the state government make their plan or announcement immediately after the federal government announcement?

  • State and Federal SOPs are contradictory
The state government has been issuing our own SOP, and often it is slightly different from that announced by the federal government.

So what if federal approvals are required for these sectors to continue to operate during FMCO? Under the federal SOP these sectors are not allowed while the Sabah SOP states the opposite. For example, car-wash, bookstore, and handphone shop are allowed under the Sabah SOP but not the Federal’s. How do these sectors apply to MITI for approval to operate?

  • No ministers want to be responsible and accountable to clear up the situation

There are so many questions surrounding the implementation of our SOP. For example, do all businesses in Sabah need to apply for MITI letter before they can operate? Are spare part or timber shops considered as hardware shops? Is air-conditioning servicing under the Maintenance category? Yet, we don’t see our ministers coming out at once to clarify them and simply allow the confusion to fester.

  • No effective communication channels to keep the public informed

These days, it seems fashionable for government agencies to simply make official public announcements via their social media platforms. There is no prior notice that a particular announcement will be made, or a fixed daily or weekly schedule for important announcements to be made. Not all Sabahans are adept at social media. Hotlines provided are almost impossible to get through. Traditional print media can only report news that happened the previous day. As a result, important announcements from the government are drowned in a sea of fake news and inaccurate information. How do we combat the pandemic when people are not informed of what needs to be done?

  • Knee-jerk reaction in response to the rise and fall of daily Covid cases

The state government seems to monitor the daily rise and fall of the Covid cases like the Bursa KL and introduce knee-jerk reaction based on this daily figure. The latest revision to all business hours in Sabah is a case in point. But are these measures implemented based on science and data? What about the R-naught value and the positive rate value?

The figure shows how daily cases can reduce as still have a higher positive rate. Testing must be shown along with Covid-19 daily numbers for a more accurate representation

These are more important in monitoring the trend of the Covid cases for accurate projections. Can the government explain why businesses in KL can operate for a longer time when its cases are much higher than Sabah? Where is the science behind all these?

  • Different agencies issuing different SOP

Other than the Majlis Keselamatan Negeri (MKN) Sabah who is responsible for issuing the Sabah’s SOP, it seems that other state ministries are also eager for a piece of the action. For example, the state Kementerian Kerja Raya (KKR) has for the first time issued their own SOP for sectors under their jurisdiction for the current FMCO. However, its SOP contradicted the one issued by MKN earlier, and resulted in the forced closure of all ports in Sabah after 6pm on day 1 of the FMCO. The KKR reversed the SOP back to the MKN version the next day, but the damage was already done.  

  • Changing of SOP to their whim and fancy

U-turn has become a hallmark of this PN/BN government with constant changes to and re-issuing of SOP almost on a daily basis. The latest example is the re-issuing of the latest SOP for new business hours for all retail sectors in the state at 10pm on Sunday night, merely one hour after an earlier version was distributed. Does the government think that all Sabahans follow its Facebook page 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

  • SOP issued only after MCO has been imposed

Between 31 May and 1 June, in just 24 hours, the SOP issued for the FMCO in Sabah had been changed and re-issued 3 times. And on 2 June, another revised SOP was issued, 2 days after FMCO has started. It is confusing to say the least, with such constant and last minute changes? And the government still have the audacity to blame the people for not complying with the SOP? Which version of the SOP are they talking about?

  • Ineffective implementation of Enhanced MCO (EMCO) in targeted hotspots

EMCO has been implemented in various hotspots in the district to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the community. However, the EMCO has always been announced 2 to 3 days in advance, often resulting in a mass exodus of the residents in those targeted areas before EMCO starts. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of an EMCO?  

  1. No effort in getting more Sabahans to be vaccinated

Up till 6 June 2021, Sabah still has the lowest vaccination registration rate as well as vaccination rate in the country, far behind all other states. With less than 20% people in Sabah registered for vaccination thus far, herd immunity will not be achieved if no drastic action is taken. Sadly, till now, we have not seen the government showing any commitment and effort in improving this dire situation.

Sabah has the lowest vaccination rate in the country

While many countries around the world are starting to lift restrictions imposed due to the pandemic and allow daily lives to slowly return to normalcy, Sabah is certainly nowhere better off than a year ago when the pandemic first started. With such blatant mismanagement of the Covid situation in the state, causing widespread confusion and frustration among Sabahans, the PN / BN cannot escape the blame that they are part of the problem for our worsening Covid situation.

Their ineptitude and incompetency have put the lives and livelihood of all Sabahans at stake.

YB Vivian Wong Shir Yee

Member of Parliament for P.186 Sandakan

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