Malaysia's 1.7 million foreign workers to undergo mandatory Covid-19 screening

Malaysian Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said employers who flout the regulations would be fined RM50,000 per worker.
Malaysian Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said employers who flout the regulations would be fined RM50,000 per worker.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia has imposed mandatory Covid-19 screening for 1.7 million foreign workers in view of the high number of cases involving the group.

And effective Thursday (Nov 26), the authorities will also start imposing a fine of RM50,000 (S$16,442) per worker if employers house their foreign staff in crowded spaces.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who announced this, said the first phase of Covid-19 screening involving 888,342 foreign workers would be carried out in Selangor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.

"The Human Resources Ministry would start enforcing the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 beginning tomorrow (Thursday Nov 26). Employers who flout the regulations would be fined RM50,000 per worker, " he said on Wednesday.

He called on employers to take the initiative to get their workers to undergo Covid-19 tests first without waiting for a directive from the authorities.

"It is better to test early and pay the bill rather than waiting for the disease to spread, as factory operators will suffer greater losses when their premises are forced to shut down to contain the spread of Covid-19, " he said.

As for the mandatory screening in phases, Socso would pay RM60 per employee for the rapid antigen test.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said it would be a great challenge even if only 1 per cent of the foreign workers tested positive for Covid-19.

"Where are we going to place them?" he said.

Mr Ismail Sabri said Top Glove is the single biggest contributor to the country's Covid-19 cases, accounting for 1,511 cases of the total 2,188 recorded nationwide in a day.

"Of the 1,623 positive cases recorded in Selangor, 1,511 are foreign workers employed at Top Glove."

He said of the 28 factories, 27 had been ordered closed, while another would be ordered to be closed pending Covid-19 screening of all its employees and 14-day quarantine order.

"Overall, the Top Glove employed 11,215 workers. Until Nov 25, a total of 5,795 screening tests had been conducted, of which 2,684 had returned positive."

He said the authorities had imposed enhanced movement control order (MCO) at the male and female hostels effective Nov 17.

"And some 2,263 of its workers who are not staying in the hostels would also be quarantined.

"Residents nearby need not worry as all workers are screened and placed in quarantine centres, including the Gold Coast hotel in Klang Sentral and a stadium in Pandamaran."

He said a task force had been set up to monitor the situation at Top Glove factories. The task force comprised Selangor National Security Council, state Health Department, Klang District Office, Klang Municipal Council and Klang police.

"The Health Ministry and the taskforce would continue monitoring and assess the situation from time to time, " he added.