Agencies iron out screening process

PETALING JAYA: Government agencies in charge of the mandatory Covid-19 screening of foreign workers, which begins today, say they are doing all they can to make the process as seamless as possible.

The Labour Department of Peninsular Malaysia and the Social Security Organisation (Socso) say they understand employers were worried about the ruling but also said it had to be done as clusters of infected foreign workers surged.

Labour Department chief Asri Ab Rahman, when contacted, said the department and Socso were entrusted with conducting the screening of 888,342 foreign workers in Selangor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Negri Sembilan.

On Nov 25, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said all 1.7 million documented foreign workers must be screened.

“We were directed by the Health Ministry to carry out the screening as soon as possible, ” said Asri.

“The Labour Department will monitor the compliance part while Socso will be involved in the funding and actual screening process.

“Employers must follow the schedule. Beginning today, all foreign workers in Klang and Seremban must undergo screening as these places have major clusters.

“Foreign workers in the red zones and other areas in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sabah and Labuan will have a time frame during which they will be screened.

On Nov 28, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said red zones in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang would start screening foreign workers starting Dec 9, while those in Sabah, Labuan and other districts in Selangor, Penang and Negri Sembilan would begin on Dec 16.

Asri said that once the screening was done, Socso would prepare the data report.

“We will use that data to monitor and conduct random checks on companies with foreign workers.”

He said the Labour Department was working closely with representatives from all sectors to get their input.

“Many foreign workers’ housing quarters are in residential areas. If we do not contain this, we will never be able to cut off the chain of transmission.

“So, there will be no compromise on the mandatory screening of foreign workers. We are also working with the local authorities to solve this problem, ” he added.

Socso chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz said Socso would provide the antigen rapid test kits (RTK-Ag) to all the clinics and testing centres free of charge.

He said employers with a large number of workers could arrange for on-site testing, while 85% of firms with less than 20 foreign workers might arrange to be tested at special centres to be set up.

“We will procure the test kits and send them to the clinics. We will bear the whole cost.

“There are 800,000 foreign workers to be tested in the first phase. We will give 100,000 test kits in the first week; more will come later for other areas.

“The screening will be staggered to allow for the deployment of the kits and to ensure government hospitals and quarantine centres are not overburdened.

“On the cost of service provided by clinics, we will bear RM60 per contributing foreign worker for now, ” said Azman, while urging private clinics and hospitals to keep the costs low so employers would not feel financially burdened.

He said Socso was working with government agencies, the Malaysian Medical Association, private labs and other supporting agencies.

“We do not want workers crowding at clinics and would like to avoid clinics closing because one worker was found to have Covid-19.

“We are also looking at solutions for the scenario where a big number of positive cases are found during testing.

“This is unprecedented. We have to follow the process and improvise when needed, ” added Azman.

At the press briefing on Covid-19 yesterday, Ismail said companies would have to set up quarantine stations (QS) as well as suitable Low Risk Treatment Centres (PKRC).

He said asymptomatic patients would be placed at dormitories provided by employers but must be separated from other workers.

“Those who have light symptoms will be placed in the PKRC while those with serious symptoms will be treated at a hospital.

“All patients who have been discharged will have to wear a wristband that is different from the Home Surveillance Order (HSO) wristband, ” he added.

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