Sarawak to set up own screening services to boost biosecurity

KUCHING: Sarawak plans to set up its own quarantine and inspection services to enhance biosecurity measures, says state Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi.

He said the proposed Sarawak Quarantine and Inspection Services (Saqis) will be a similar agency to the Federal-level Malaysia Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis).

"The establishment of Saqis is crucial to safeguard biosecurity in maintaining Sarawak's disease-free status," he told the state legislative assembly when winding up matters related to his ministry on Wednesday (Nov 30).

Dr Rundi also said African swine fever (ASF) had spread to most parts of the state since it was first detected in backyard pig farms in Buduk Bui, Lawas, in July last year.

He said most of the farms affected by the disease had poor or no biosecurity measures.

"To date, 6,263 animals owned by over 800 backyard pig farmers have been culled and disposed of to contain the outbreak," he said, adding that a culling exercise involving 31,130 animals from 34 commercial farms was also carried out.

The state government has approved RM5.5mil in compassionate assistance for the affected farmers, with 196 receiving the aid last year.

On rabies, Dr Rundi said the situation in Sarawak was under control as dog bite cases and rabies-positive dogs had decreased in the last four years.

He said bite cases showed a downward trend from over 400 cases per month in 2018 to 250 cases per month this year, while the percentage of rabies-positive dogs declined from 42% in 2018 to 14% this year.

In addition, he said vaccination coverage will be boosted with the amendment to the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance passed by the state legislature last week, which allows the state veterinary authority to train and authorise public officers to assist in the vaccination of dogs.

Similarly, he said 32 immune belt enforcement teams under the state security and enforcement unit will be trained and empowered to assist the Veterinary Services Department to speed up the vaccination process, particularly at 980 longhouses and settlements along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

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