MIRI: Sarawak has issued a health warning to rural and longhouse communities to stop the traditional practice of sharing cups.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said although the habit of sharing cups and glasses was a noble gesture of closeness and friendship, it was a sure way of transmitting infectious diseases.
We (state health authorities) want this habit which is particularly common in longhouses, to stop.
Some of them even share their glasses with their guests and this is a common practice not only among the Dayaks but other races.
Some families also share glasses among their children and members of their own household,'' he said.
Dr Chan, who is state Finance, Public Utilities and Industrial Development Minister, said he had sought the help of prominent Iban leader Tan Sri Alfred Jabu (State Land and Rural Development Minister) to inform community leaders about the warning.
The warning must be disseminated fast and wide in view of the coming Gawai festivities (June 1), he said.
He said he would be calling for a top-level meeting with heads of relevant departments and agencies next week aimed at forming a special committee to stop infectious diseases from spreading.
Asked about a proposal to impose mandatory quarantine on the 20,000 Sarawakians working in Singapore should they return for the Gawai, Dr Chan said the plan had been dropped for now.
The situation in Singapore is getting better, so there may be no need to impose such measures. Even in the state now, there are only two patients in the SARS isolation ward in the Sarawak General Hospital, he said.
In Kota Kinabalu, Kadazandusun and Murut Cultural Association deputy president Datuk Clarence Bongkos said the community was discouraged from using bamboo straws to drink tapai (rice wine) from a tajau (jar) during the current month-long harvest festivities in view of SARS.
This practice should be stopped temporarily in view of SARS. As we celebrate the Kaamatan (harvest) we should not forget our health, he said.