Sabah may be badly affected by Covid-19

POSTED BY Sri Fitrah Vong ON 16 April 2020


Sabah and Sarawak have about the highest number of undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia.

For Sabah, the consensus guesstimate population of undocumented foreign workers is one million. They are mostly from the Philippines and are valued by their oil palm plantation bosses as hard workers without whom their industry would be financially crippled.

“It’s much more difficult to control Covid-19 in Sabah and Sarawak because of the huge number of undocumented foreign workers here,” said AC (anonymity requested), a grassroots leader and entrepreneur in the fishing industry in Kuala Penyu, Sabah.

“Pulau Gaya, Semporna, Lahad Datu: all these places have a majority of undocumented foreign workers. The government won’t be able to control the Covid-19 pandemic in these areas,” AC warned.

“These undocumented foreign workers stay in cramped conditions. Anywhere they are, Sungai Bakau for instance, it’s normal to find a few families occupying one house.

“They enter Sabah illegally, through Tawau for instance, and of course they don’t check into a hotel. They will make their way to their relatives’ house and stay with them.

The documenting and screening of undocumented workers are possible but improbable, said MH (anonymity requested).

“The authorities know most of the jetties where boats can land without being checked, and the jetties where entry and exit are documented.

“The federal and state governments have tried many times unsuccessfully to document the foreign workers. It will be impossible unless the leaders leave their silos and unite on a common platform which is to flatten the curve of the pandemic.

“Why don’t we get the relevant agencies – Ministry of Health, Immigration, Police, Transport – to adopt new technology like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to document the foreign workers so that they can be screened and quarantined where required?

“This will require the total cooperation and impartial participation of the relevant agencies with regard to documentation and screening regardless of nationally, race and religion – as implacably impartial as is the Covid-19 virus,” said AC.

“What else can make the politicians and agencies work together if not to tackle this common enemy, the Covid-19 pandemic?”

This article was previously published on FocusMalaysia


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