Sarawak leads the charge on infectious diseases

Special visit: Abang Johari (second from left) talking to a vaccine recipient at Unimas’ Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Hall while Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah (third left) and Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi (left) look on.

KUCHING: Sarawak has approved RM200mil to build an infectious diseases research centre under a forward-looking policy to handle future pandemics.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the construction of the centre, to be located near the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan, would start this year and is slated for completion in three years’ time.

“The state government decided last year to set up a research centre for infectious diseases.

“We have approved the site and allocated a budget to develop the centre.

“We do not know what other diseases may emerge but we must have a professional, credible research institution that will interact with international bodies so that we can predict (future pandemics),” Abang Johari said after visiting a vaccination centre at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Hall in Kota Samarahan yesterday.

He said the centre would be developed under the Sarawak Research and Development Council with assistance from local experts and international institutions.

“As far as the state government is concerned, we have resources in biodiversity.

“What we need is expertise, so we will work with research institutions including Unimas,” he said.

The centre aims to improve research in infectious diseases, equip Sarawak to test therapeutics, vaccines and equipment against infectious agents and enable Sarawak to detect, diagnose and predict potential outbreaks.

It will also collaborate with the Health Ministry to tackle infectious diseases in the state.

Going by plans, it is expected to have state-of-the-art equipment and biosafety level three laboratories.

Separately, Abang Johari said Sarawak aimed to increase its Covid-19 vaccination capacity to 50,000 people a day in order to complete the immunisation programme by August.

With 45,291 jabs administered on Tuesday alone, he said the target could be achieved with more vaccination centres to be set up and vaccine supplies arriving in the state.

Some 110,380 doses of vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Miri today and another 350,000 doses in Kuching tomorrow.

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