A second full lockdown will lead to irreparable damage to the business sector and the economy, with a devastating impact on business survival and job security, according to the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).
Hence, FMM said it urged industries to give their fullest cooperation and play their part by taking the additional proactive and preventive measures to tighten the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) at the workplace and living quarters of employees.
“Industries are deeply alarmed by the Ministry of Health’s warning that the country’s health system is at breaking point due to the overwhelming active Covid-19 cases.
“We are equally concerned about the latest updates that there are currently 318 active Covid-19 clusters of which 99 clusters or about 30 per cent are from the manufacturing sector,” FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said in a statement today.
He said following this, FMM has issued another reminder to all its members on the additional measures that must be taken to protect the workforce and contain the spread of infections.
Soh said as worker hostels and housing have been identified as a breeding ground for Covid-19 infection, there is an urgent need for employers to provide greater attention to the living conditions for all workers and ensure they comply with strict SOPs including the requirement for physical distancing in the living environment.
He said this would also include imposing the same requirements on the living conditions of sub-contract workers and complying with the government’s directive for all foreign workers to be Covid-19 screened and endeavour to get this concluded soonest possible by the set deadline.
“Mass testing has also proven to be a very effective approach to pick up positive cases and trigger the necessary protocols that would ensure swift action and minimal disruption to operations,” he said.
He said the capacity of vehicles or buses to ferry workers needed to be kept at 50 per cent or below to ensure physical distancing is maintained in these vehicles while transporting workers including all other SOPs and precautionary measures.
In addition, he said companies must appoint senior management members of the company to ensure that the SOPs are strictly complied with at the workplace, including rest and mealtimes, workers’ accommodation and during transportation of workers.
“Isolate suspected or positive Covid-19 cases at a dedicated point similar to self-quarantine away from other workers and immediately notify the nearest state or district health departments.
“Advocate a ‘safe work bubble’ for employees by monitoring and limiting employees’ movements to the minimum and on a need basis only. Daily travel should be limited to commuting from home to the workplace and back,” he noted.
Soh said industries had appealed for the continued support of the government to facilitate all employers as they endeavour to comply with some of the requirements and directives that have a direct impact on their adherence to specific SOPs and preventive measures namely compliance with Act 446 on accommodation for employees and the mandatory testing of all foreign workers.
“On Act 446, the major obstacles are the lack of hostels and centralised living quarters, additional accommodation space and most critical is the lack of facilitation of approvals by local authorities which is a critical element to compliance,” he said.
On the mandatory testing of all foreign workers, he said FMM had appealed for the government to agree on subsidising the cost of the Rapid Test Kit (RTK)-antigen so that employers in all the states under the movement control order (MCO) could quickly arrange to conclude the mandatory screening by the deadline.
Soh said the government must also ensure clinics and hospitals strictly adhere to the gazetted cost of the RTK-antigen/RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests for all including foreigners or when bulk tests are done, and to consider appropriate discounts for the service cost/test costs which would be borne by employers.
He said the government must also ensure there are sufficient test facilities and labs to cope with the volume of tests that would be carried out during this period and for timely release of test results.
“An early announcement of the national vaccination programme and the prioritised groups is critical towards industries’ business continuity plans.
“It must be recognised that as long as the pandemic pervades, the growth and investments by the private sector will remain subdued and the economic recovery will continue to be sluggish,” he added.