KOTA KINABALU, Sept 26 — Sabahans today came out in droves amidst Covid-19 fears to cast their ballot for the state election.
In some voting centres, people lined up as early as 7am, half an hour before the centres opened, braving the sun.
Voters were seen observing the stringent Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) vigilantly, by wearing masks and maintaining appropriate distances in most instances.
In urban areas in the city such as Kapayan, Api Api and Luyang, the process was smooth and calm and the ambience respectful.
Most shops were closed in view of the public holiday, with only a few eateries found operating, and virtually empty roads around town.
Voting centres visited by the Malay Mail team saw voters lining up in an orderly fashion with not much joviality in the air.
Senior citizens lined up for their recommended time slot of 10am to 12pm, although many voters of all ages were also seen at the same time.
Voters aged between 30 to 49-years-old were recommended to vote between 8am to 10am but many also showed up early as they said they were eager to vote or had to go to work.
Temperatures were taken by health officers upon entry and their name and contact taken after voting.
In SMK Bahang, one of the voting centres for the Kepayan state seat, 38-year-old Terence Tan said he was advised to come between 8am to 10am but he arrived before 7.30am in order to cast his vote early.
“I have to go to work after this so I didn’t want to take the chance. We have to do our part. Every vote counts,” he said.
In SK Sacred Heart, 86-year-old Chin Shim Yung was wheeled in by wheelchair to vote with her church member Helen Wong.
“She wanted to come early, so she could go home early too. After this I have to go to another place to vote,” she said.
In SK Yick Nam, Inanam, the process started with a slow crowd at 7.30am but gradually picked up in the late morning
Meanwhile across the coast in Pulau Gaya, under the Tanjung Aru constituency, eager voters started lining up at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pulau Gaya as early as dawn; just minutes after Election Commission personnel themselves arrived on the floating village.
By 9am, thousands of voters were patiently queueing under the blazing sun, as police and People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel tried their best to manage the crowd to comply with physical distancing SOPs.
When asked, an EC staff told Malay Mail that most of the voters here arrived well before their suggested time slot, which caused the never-ending beeline leading out from the polling centre.
“But they are eager to vote and have been trying their best to follow the SOPs.
“We can still manage,” added the EC staff.
Several feet away, traders selling snacks and chilled drinks enjoyed higher sales following the sudden increase of voters entering the island.
Dayang Khatijah, 37, manning a stall selling fried snacks and fresh coconut water just outside the school, said she hopes to clear out her stock today anticipating more customers than usual.
“It’s not even noon and I have sold more than half of my stock; I even needed to get help from a friend to send coconuts and some other supplies from Kota Kinabalu by boat just now,” she said.
Dayang said she plans to remain open for business until 5pm when voting closes today, or when she clears out her stock.
As of 11am, the EC announced a voter turnout of 32 per cent across the state.
Polling closes at 5pm.