PETALING JAYA: There has to be a proper testing process for the mandatory Covid-19 screening of foreign workers, given the two million foreign workforce and the need to maintain social distancing.
This is coupled with the limitation of processing a maximum of 20,000 test kits per day.
American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Ancham) – Malaysian American Electronics Industry (MAEI) committee chairman Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai said some of the measures that the government can look into included on-site testing and the option of using the antigen rapid test kit (RTK).
“Conducting Covid-19 tests at factories or construction sites will result in an organised system and minimise the risk of exposure.
“Additionally, the RTK will cut down on the waiting time for results to about 15 minutes compared with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which must be sent to the lab and requires two days to yield a result, ” he told StarBiz.
In a joint statement yesterday, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Malaysia and Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) are of the same view, recommending that the government reconsider alternatives such as the RTK, which is faster, cheaper and readily available to accommodate the large number of workers.
Rehda and MBAM suggested that the PCR swab test be carried out intermittently and selectively, in the event of an outbreak within the site.
Apart from that, Rehda and MBAM are appealing to the government to bear the full cost of Covid-19 screening for all workers, to enable as many workers to commence work on site and get the construction industry started. “The high cost per person at RM350 to RM650 translates to a considerable amount that contractors need to bear, as a construction site typically has hundreds of workers.
“This will incur heavy costs to construction companies on top of all other mobilisation costs and losses since the start of the movement control order (MCO) on March 18.
“The virus outbreak and its severity is unexpected, and it is beyond the financial capacity of contractors to bear the cost especially when they are financially affected by the pandemic, ” said Rehda and MBAM.
Wong concurred, adding that companies that cannot afford to pay for the Covid-19 tests would risk causing more infection cases.
Should the government pay for the Covid-19 tests for foreign workers, there will be an assurance that all workers are tested.
On Tuesday, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the Social Security Organisation (Socso) would bear the cost for foreign workers who contribute to the organisation.
An estimated 40% or 800,000 foreign workers would not be covered by Socso.
Ismail said the testing would start in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, beginning with those in the construction sector.
As of June 2019, the manufacturing sector hired the most number of foreign workers, amounting to a headcount of almost 700,000.
This is followed by the construction industry with 438,000 foreign workers.
While it may seem that foreign workers in the manufacturing sector should be prioritised for screening given the sheer volume, Amcham-MAEI’s Wong explained that manufacturers were already running operations during the MCO, albeit at lower operating capacities.
Additionally, those in the manufacturing line, particularly in the electric and electronics industry, were adhering to standard operating procedures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“There has been no cases of infection, save for those in hotspot areas like Sri Petaling, who have already been tested by the Health Ministry.
“This is also due to the MCO, which has kept everyone at home. Thus, going forward, it is more important to educate the workers to continue following strict protocols of social distancing and washing their hands frequently, ” said Wong.
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