Malaysia lifts Covid-19 curbs in 4 states, places Kelantan on lockdown

Malaysia on Nov 9 expanded CMCO to nine of its 13 states after a spike in coronavirus cases.
Malaysia on Nov 9 expanded CMCO to nine of its 13 states after a spike in coronavirus cases.PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government will lift the conditional movement control order (CMCO) on four states, but has put Kelantan under lockdown and announced that all foreign workers in select regions will have to undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said a CMCO would be imposed on Kelantan beginning Saturday (Nov 21) due to a hike in Covid-19 cases. This comes after the Mengketil cluster in the state recorded 41 cases across multiple districts.

He also said the CMCO would end in Kedah, Melaka, Terengganu and Johor from Sunday, earlier than the initially set date of Dec 6.

Malaysia on Nov 9 expanded CMCO to nine of its 13 states after a spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Mr Ismail Sabri also announced that foreign workers in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Labuan in all sectors and industries are to undergo compulsory swab tests for Covid-19.

However, the order does not cover domestic workers like maids.

The Senior Minister said this would be phase one of the policy to compel foreign workers to be tested, following an increase in the number of cases among them.

He said the matter was decided by the National Security Council (MKN) special meeting on Friday after a proposal tabled by the Human Resources Ministry.

"After listening to the proposal and on the advice of the Health Ministry, the special meeting agreed to make it compulsory for foreign workers in these states as well as Kuala Lumpur and Labuan to undergo RTK-antigen swab tests, " he said.

He, however, did not specify what date the mandatory testing on foreign workers would take effect.

The MKN special meeting was told that as of Oct 31, there were 1,615,83 foreign workers in Malaysia.

Mr Ismail Sabri said the meeting also agreed for private clinic staff to go to construction sites and workplaces to test foreign workers instead of having them queue up in front of clinics to be tested.

He also explained that the RTK-antigen test was agreed upon as the results would be faster.

On paying for the tests, Mr Ismail Sabri said: "The Social Security Organisation (Socso) will subsidise RM60 (S$19.70) for foreign workers who are contributors while the remaining portion of the charges will be paid by their employers."

Employers are to bear the full cost to test their foreign workers who are not Socso contributors.

Separately, a Human Resources Ministry spokesman told The Star that RTK-antigen tests on foreign workers that are conducted from Nov 21 onwards would be eligible for reimbursement.

Applications for reimbursement can be made via Socso's Prihatin Screening Programme (PSP) portal. Socsco will also work to facilitate the tests by participating clinics.

Further announcements on the reimbursement procedure and testing will be made on its website, the spokesman said.

Mr Ismail Sabri also said the decision to get these workers tested was based on a risk evaluation carried out by health authorities since these workers' cramped living conditions had led to a high infection rate among them.

He also pointed out that new regulations were in place requiring employers and centralised accommodation providers to ensure living quarters met certain minimum requirements.

Meanwhile, to boost domestic tourism which has been badly affected by the pandemic, holidays and travel within green states will be allowed starting Sunday.

Mr Ismail Sabri said this was decided after the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry tabled a proposal, adding that the MKN special meeting had agreed but this would only be for those living in green states or districts for destinations that are also in green zones.

He cited an example where those from Kuantan, which is a green zone, could go for a holiday in Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan, which is also green.

Those residing in Pahang who want to go for a holiday in Johor, which is now green, but have to pass through Negri Sembilan need to get police permission to travel through the red zone.