EMCO kicks off early in parts of Kota Kinabalu as police cordons go up around affected areas

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali. - Filepic/The Star

KOTA KINABALU: Many parts of the city centre here have been placed under the enhanced movement control order (MCO) with police cordoning off areas earlier than the scheduled start date owing to rising Covid-19 cases and to keep residents contained.

The latest are the Sinsuran and Segama areas in downtown Kota Kinabalu, said to house some water villagers from nearby Gaya Island who managed to flee when the island was declared an enhanced MCO zone earlier this month.

Though authorities are not saying that the surge in Covid-19 cases is caused by the movement of water villagers from Pulau Gaya, they are also not denying that this could be one of the causes.

Earlier this month, it was reported that over 60 Covid-19 positive and suspected positive Pulau Gaya folk could not be traced when health authorities turned up at their homes to take them to quarantine and treatment.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said a few were found while some surrendered to authorities after they were mentioned in news reports and a continuous search was mounted for them.

“But many still remain missing and we suspect they are going from one water village to another inside the island.

"We are still tracing those who have yet to report to authorities,” he said when contacted on Wednesday (July 28).

Hazani had also said previously that some might have escaped to the mainland city centre and rented rooms here so that they could work and move freely, rather than have their movements restricted on the island.

It is believed that many of them work in the market area, coffeeshops and other business premises in the city, and would previously travel to and from the island daily.

Four villages in Pulau Gaya are under the enhanced MCO until Aug 4. Kg Pondo was the first to be under lockdown from June 30.

Pulau Gaya, an island off the mainland, is occupied mainly by Filipino migrants and refugees, many of whom have been naturalised. There are also Palau or Bajau Laut people living there.

The island is a source of workers and labourers for most businesses here, ranging from coffeeshops to construction sites.

However, following the detection of Covid-19 positive cases at Kg Pondo, one of the five villages there, authorities started to enforce the enhanced MCO there.

Many residents, including their families, reportedly fled to the mainland.

Some coffeeshops and eateries also voluntarily closed in parts of the city and neighbouring Penampang over the past week after operators or workers were found to be infected.

Kota Kinabalu and Penampang saw a surge in Covid-19 cases over the last week.

With an increasing number of areas placed under enhanced MCO, some residents from affected localities were said to have left their homes to stay elsewhere, returning only after the order was lifted.

In response, Hazani said police were tracing those missing from their homes and would also take steps to cordon off areas once they received information that the enhanced MCO would be imposed there.

He said all district police chiefs were also ordered to take measures against people who fled enhanced MCO areas.

A total of 27 localities in Sabah have been placed under enhanced MCO since June 29.

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