KOTA KINABALU: Public apathy and weariness on the long-drawn fight against the Covid-19 pandemic remains a key factor for the spread of the infection that sees Sabah's figures "rising and dipping" over the last few months.
Public health experts believe that people might have developed lethargy and as such, drop their guard against the continuing threat of the virus that is now seeing a fresh rising trend in the east coast Sabah areas particularly south-eastern Tawau district.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Senior Public Health Medicine Specialist and Head of Public Health Unit Datuk Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim said that the virus is in the community and the public must maintain strict vigilance to safeguard themselves.
"It's everyone's responsibility now to ensure the standard operating procedure (SOP) are strictly followed," he said when asked about Sabah's unpredictable Covid-19 figures that has often been described as a "yoyo”.
"If you follow closely on the cluster, the cases mostly arise due to SOP neglect. Is it done purposely? Or lack of information? Or lack of awareness?" he said, stressing that strict observation of SOP was the only option to beat the virus.
In the case of Tawau where health authorities have been overstretched since April 3, he said there was a possibility that the virus could be a mutated strain or a new strain of virus which could be a super spreader (virulent).
"We have no news on the strain... hopefully, the ministry will update us," he said.
Other medical observers agreed that SOP compliance was an important factor in curbing the spread of the virus.
"As in any problem, it takes two to tango and in the Covid-19 issue, more than two - the public, government, politicians and other stakeholders.
"The public certainly can do more but decisive, well planned, pre-emptive, efficiently executed policies and harnessing the best brains by the government can have monumental impact," said a medical practitioner who has been involved in assisting the fight against Covid-19.
He believed that Sabah has never managed to contain the pandemic as total restrictions were lifted too early for schools and gatherings among others.
He, like many others in the medical fraternity, felt that the enforcement of SOP was not at its highest.
Medical observers believed that cases were just holding on in Sabah although Tawau and the east coast are now facing pressure.
"Kota Kinabalu is not too bad but if we are not careful, it may well follow next," observed the medical practitioner.
Sabah became the epicentre of the nation's third wave when Covid-19 numbers hit four figures after the Sept 26 snap state election, but it was brought down to double digits by March this year.
Since early April, Tawau cases spiked with the district hospital and its three Covid-19 quarantine centres reaching nearly full capacity.
Medical teams from other districts have also been roped in to help the overstretched medical facilities in Tawau.
Tawau and neighbouring districts of Lahad Datu and Sandakan are under the movement control order (MCO) while the rest of the state has been put under conditional MCO after it was downgraded from recovery MCO last week.