It was reported that 33,613 foreign workers have undergone Covid-19 screening; of these, 40% are from the construction sector.
Currently, there are about 2.3 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia while an estimated three million illegal migrants work in the country.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said it was never made mandatory for foreign workers in the manufacturing sector to get tested prior to being allowed to return to work.
“As such, the decision to get workers tested for manufacturing companies depends on their operational needs and risks,” he said.
Despite this, Soh said businesses were still encouraged to send their workers for testing.
He noted that the Health Ministry had approved clinics and hospitals nationwide for the screening of Covid-19, making it more conducive for companies to get their workers tested.
In addition, under Penjana (National Economic Recovery Plan), the government had announced a tax deduction for expenses incurred from Covid-19 testing, he said.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan opined that Covid-19 testing had caused a lot of confusion and concern among employers due to the government’s “flip-flop policy” in terms of who had to bear the cost of testing, where the testing was done, and even the type of testing.
However, he said testing legal foreign workers was not an issue as they were contributing to the Social Security Organisation (Socso) but testing the undocumented ones was.
“Covid-19 has been recognised as one of the employment diseases so anything that has got to do with the costing of treatment or testing can be claimed from Socso.
“But those who are employing illegal foreign workers will not send their workers to be tested as it will get them into trouble.
“Why should they (send the workers for Covid-19 testing) as there is actually no record of the workers here? Once you approach the government to do the testing, and if they are tested positive, it will become an issue.
“If you are employing an illegal, as an employer, you can be caught and charged under the law.” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said the current number of foreign workers tested was “just a very small proportion” out of the estimated foreign workers’ population in the country.
Dr Zainal said the documented and undocumented workers were involved in wide multisectoral industries nationwide, adding
that the true picture of the community infection was still not established.
Thus, he said, the Covid-19 testing targeted at construction sites did not “adequately represent the multisectoral industries”.
“The number of foreign workers tested should be increased in the region of hundreds of thousands,” he said.
“The sectors should also be widened throughout the country, especially to include the hospitality industry, restaurants and food outlets, supermarkets and shopping malls, because of their nature of business with close interaction with the public,” he added.
Did you find this article insightful?
50% readers found this article insightful