Villagers shunned over SARS fears


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 30 Apr 2003

By MARSHA TAN

KULAI: Villagers of Kampung Baru in Kelapa Sawit, 7km from here, are being made to feel like outcasts just because 75 families there are under quarantine for suspected Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

The families are those of people who had visited the SARS-affected Pasir Panjang wholesale market in Singapore. 

Coffee shop owner Chin Kee Fatt, 52, said the people in Kulai looked at him strangely after learning that he was from Kelapa Sawit. 

Many have avoided his shop. Other villagers also complained of being shunned by the town’s people for fear of catching the virus. 

“My business has been affected but people in our village are carrying out their daily chores because we know there is no cause for panic. 

PREVENTIVE MEASURE: Wong (right) handing out masks to Kelapa Sawit residents on Sunday.

“I do not understand why the people in Kulai town treat us differently as there are no cases of SARS here,” said the father of four children aged between 18 and 28.  

Kampung Baru village chief Wong Tong Fook, 52, said a villager had complained he was not allowed to enter a bowling alley in Kulai town after a worker checked his identity card and found out he was from Kelapa Sawit. 

“These families have members working as lorry drivers or workers at the Pasir Panjang wholesale market in Singapore, but after health checks they have not shown signs of SARS. 

“However, the quarantine is a safeguard measure and the public should not view the whole village as SARS carriers,” Wong said. 

Wong said he would visit the quarantined families and urge them to be patient, and advise those not affected not to go out unnecessarily.  

Retired farmer Chai Yoke Heng, 62, said he was not worried about contracting SARS because there had been no cases in the village so far.  

“The people in town are making a big fuss over nothing and because we have families quarantined here, they treat us all like those having SARS.  

“This treatment affects the harmony and peace in the village because they feel they are not accepted or welcomed in public,” he said, adding, however, that all villagers should keep masks in their houses as a preventive measure. 

Sixty-four-year-old Lai Moi Chai said he had to close his noodle stall for the time being because people were afraid of eating outdoors, especially in Kelapa Sawit.  

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