COLUMNIST Mangai Balasegaram made a cogent argument when she called for strict monitoring of factories and workplaces where physical distancing is impossible (“Our treatment of migrant workers will come back to haunt us”, Human Writes, StarLifestyle, June 13; online at bit.ly/star_migrant).
Workers often also live in cramped quarters. So, yes, as she says, not improving conditions for them is like pouring kerosene on a burning epidemic.
In Malaysia, nearly 130,000 factories with 1.6 million workers are being allowed to operate in the current phase of the movement control order till the end of this month.
National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said at a webinar on Saturday that many of these factories supply goods and provide services to global companies, therefore implying that our economy will be severely affected if they were not allowed to operate. While that fact may justify allowing these factories to operate, it is still possible and necessary to enforce strict safety and hygiene measures, both at the worksites and in the living quarters of the workers.
I, and I’m sure the rakyat, would like to know if these factories are being monitored to ensure that they comply strictly with the SOP.
Balasegaram quotes Human Resources Minister S. Saravanan as saying that last November, the country’s largest cluster occurred among 5,000 workers whose living quarters provided by their company were, as he described them, “terrible”. More than six months have since passed since then but how many similar places have been checked? Instead, we see strict enforcement in supermarkets and eating shops where the number of infections has consistently remained low.
We all know what must be done. Let’s do it.