Dorms in factories mulled

PENANG is considering new medium-term strategies to flatten the state’s Covid-19 infection curve after recent trends show that foreign factory workers are triggering new clusters here.

With the latest Perusahaan Baru Cluster here being yet another workplace infection chain involving foreign workers, the state is looking at ways to contain the spread.

“I don’t like to blame them (foreign workers). They are also, at the end of the day, human beings.

“But if they are the cause and the source of the spread, then we have to come up with out-of-the-box ideas, ” said local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo.

He said the state was now considering two approaches.

One is for large factories to be allowed to build on-site workers’ quarters.

Subject to health and safety conditions that will ensure the welfare of foreign workers, Jagdeep said such factories may be allowed to build their own hostels to house workers.

The second solution being looked at is the housing of foreign workers in vacant commercial units that are some distance from local residential areas.

Both solutions, he said, are being studied as a move to reduce crowding in existing worker dormitories and also to move workers who now stay in hostels set up within residential areas of Penangites.

“Covid-19 is not waiting at all. If Covid-19 doesn’t wait, we must move faster, ” he said, adding that he had told both city councils to expedite the study of the guidelines and conditions, which are now in the final stages of being fine-tuned.

Jagdeep said the ideas were not new and last year, factories were invited to apply for permission to build worker dorms on their factory grounds.

Four factories on the mainland have submitted their proposals so far, he added.

Jagdeep said Penang now has two fully operational workers dormitories, in Batu Maung on the island and Bukit Minyak on the mainland, while six more are in various stages of completion.

“But these will take time so both city councils need to look at these two options, ” Jagdeep said.

The press conference was also attended by Penang Island City Council secretary Datuk Addnan Mohd Razali and Seberang Prai City Council’s Town and Country Planning director Norliza Abdullah.

Out of the 140,000 registered foreign workers in the state, 83,490 are still waiting for their turn to be tested.

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