Malaysia enforces requirement for improved worker lodging to rein in Covid-19

Covid-19 infections in Malaysia have raged amongs migrant workers who typically work and live closely.
Covid-19 infections in Malaysia have raged amongs migrant workers who typically work and live closely.PHOTO: ANDY HALL

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia has gazetted an emergency ordinance compelling employers to provide lodging with sufficient living space and amenities for migrant workers to effectively control the spread of Covid-19, the Human Resources Ministry said on Thursday (Feb 18).

It is among the first emergency ordinances - laws that do not require prior parliamentary approval - to be enforced since a national emergency was declared on Jan 12 to curb the coronavirus spread.

Covid-19 infections in Malaysia have raged among migrant workers who typically work and live closely, with an outbreak at world's largest glove maker Top Glove becoming the largest cluster in the country in December after more than 5,000 workers were infected.

Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan said that under the emergency ordinance, the minimum housing standards for worker accommodation will now be enforced nationwide and the Labour Department is authorised to order owners of accommodation to replace, change or improve workers' lodging.

The department could also instruct them to move workers immediately from accommodation that is crowded and unsuitable for human lodging, at their own cost, or face RM200,000 (S$65,700) in fines or a three-year jail term, or both.

The ministry, in recent investigations at glove makers Top Glove's and Brightway Holdings' facilities, found that workers lived in cramped, poorly ventilated and dirty accommodation.

Malaysian companies employ migrant workers primarily from Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia, who work largely in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

The South-east Asian nation reported on Thursday cumulative Covid-19 cases at nearly 275,000, and total fatalities at 1,030.