KUCHING: Sarawak's Dayak community has been advised to stay at home for the coming Gawai celebration to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The state Health Department said in a joint statement with public physicians Dr Johnny Pangkas and Dr Eunice Melissa, officer Gabriel Alexis and Sarawak Covid-19 vaccine advisory group chairman Prof Datuk Dr Andrew Kiyu, that those celebrating Gawai should not return to their villages or longhouses if they stay in town.
They also urged the Dayak community to celebrate the festival with family members in the same household or longhouse bilik only, avoid Gawai visiting (ngabang) or gathering in common areas or organising cock-fighting events, and to follow the standard operating procedure announced by the state disaster management committee.
"In other words, please stay at home and do not make any interdistrict movements. By limiting our movements during this Gawai celebration, we can help to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission," the health experts said in the statement on Tuesday (May 25).
Gawai is the annual harvest festival celebrated by the Dayak community, and it falls on June 1 and 2.
According to the SOP, the celebration this year is allowed for one day only on June 1 and is limited to immediate family members within the same household or longhouse bilik.
Ngabang, interdistrict balik kampung and social activities related to the celebration, including weddings and cockfighting, are not allowed.
The health experts noted that unlike last year, when the pandemic mainly affected urban areas in Sarawak, the virus had spread to most of the rural areas this year, with many longhouses placed under the enhanced movement control order.
The number of clusters has also increased due to poor compliance with SOP and contributing factors such as social gatherings, birthday celebrations, wedding events, funerals, cockfighting events and interdistrict movement.
The experts also said the surge in Covid-19 cases in Sarawak in the past few months was higher compared to the same period last year, with 300 to 600 cases reported daily in the last few weeks and 152 deaths from January to April this year.
As such, they advised the Dayak community to celebrate Gawai within their own households in compliance with the SOP.
"The prevention and control of Covid-19 is the responsibility of the whole community and not only government agencies alone. Everyone should be responsible for their own health and let us work together to prevent this disease from spreading further," they said.