No CNY break for virus tests

A swab test being carried out on a foreign worker at the construction site. — Filepic

EMPLOYERS have been told to carry on with the mandatory Covid-19 screening for foreign workers even during the festive period, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

Its Penang chairman Datuk Jimmy Ong said time is running out as all the multinational companies and small medium enterprises have only until Feb 28 to complete the testing.

“The Chinese New Year holidays should be a time for all employers to continue with their foreign workers’ testing in order to meet the deadline.

“We believe most factories in Penang have screened their workers.

“We hope the Health Ministry would release more detailed data, showing which sectors have carried out the screening and those that have yet to complete the screening.

“Let us work together to fight the spread of the virus, rather than imposing fines and penalty which may cause more hardship to the already battered economy, ” he said.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan had on Tuesday said employers would not be able to renew their workers’ temporary working permits if they failed to complete screening tests on their foreign workers by Feb 28.

He urged employers to take swift action on the mandatory testing in view of the workplace-related Covid-19 clusters.

Saravanan said as an incentive, employers will get tax exemption for payments incurred on the Covid-19 screenings of their foreign workers.

Foreign workers waiting for their turn to screen for Covid-19 at a  construction site in Penang. Foreign workers waiting for their turn to screen for Covid-19 at a construction site in Penang.

Ong said the movement control order (MCO) extension had little impact on the companies’ operations.

“It is business as usual for most of the companies which are only waiting for the new guidelines from the Trade and Industry Ministry.

Malaysian International Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) executive director Shaun Cheah said the tax exemption was a good move by the government.

“However, the Home Ministry need to give assurance that illegal foreign workers who come out for testing will not be arrested.

“MICCI prefers to take advantage of the eminent post-MCO rebound and to ride on this wave, foreign workers are still badly needed as a short-term measure for economic recovery.

“Any impediments, such as incomplete foreign workers testing will surely put the brakes on a fast robust recovery, ” said Cheah.

Free Trade Zone Penang Companies’ Association president Ruben Nyul, however, said the

Feb 28 deadline was “too tight” to complete the testing of foreign workers in the Free Trade Zone.

He said the industries had adapted to the MCO since the last one in March.

“We are better prepared this time, with most companies operating for some time.

“We appreciate and are aware of the difficult task the government has, which is to ensure the wellbeing of all.

“But we still need clarification on how effective the screening is and how the quarantine process is going to work, especially when a new cluster emerges, ” he said.

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