Calls for more labs to test workers

Work condition: Plant workers waiting for their turn to undergo Covid-19 testing at a factory within a free industrial zone. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: A factory here has called for more Covid-19 testing labs to be set up for factory workers as he claims the present centres could not handle the high number of cases.

The factory manager who declined to be named said that at present, there were only a few Social Security Organisation (Socso) appointed labs doing the rapid antigen testing in Penang.

“Last week, the state health authorities set up a Covid-19 swab test facility for dormitory workers.

“Factories were told to send their workers there for testing.

“However, the operation was halted after a couple of days because they could not cope with the large number of workers coming for the test.

“Perhaps, the Federal Government should look into setting up more labs to do the testing.

“I believe there are only two or three Socso-appointed labs here. In the US, the test results are known in 24 hours.

“Over here, it takes a few days.

“While waiting, we can’t operate, and this is disruptive to our production, ” he claimed.

Penang domestic and international trade, consumer affairs and entrepreneurship development committee chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain said he was not aware of this issue as the matter was under the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry.

“But I will ask my officers to look into this and see how we can assist them, ” he said.

Since yesterday, Malaysia imposed mandatory Covid-19 screening for 1.7 million foreign workers in Selangor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Negri Sembilan.

The authorities will also start imposing a fine of RM50,000 per worker if employers house their foreign workers in crowded accommodations.

Free Industrial Zone, Penang, Companies’ Association (Frepenca) president Ruben Nyul said all their members were well informed and aware of the standard operating procedure (SOP) during this conditional movement control order.

“All our members have been regularly updated and reminded of the SOP. We fully support the state government’s effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 to safeguard the well-being of our employees, families and general population.

“So far, the SOP and the measures implemented have not caused any disruption in the production process of the factories in the industrial zones, ” he said.

Meanwhile, an American manufacturing services company in the Free Industrial Zone was ordered to send all of its 12,000 workers for Covid-19 test.

“The factory was not ordered to close but its workers were told to undergo screening by the Health Ministry, ” Abdul Halim said.

This month alone, some seven factories suffered losses due to production downtime and shutdown for screening and sanitisation purposes.

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