All migrant workers in Malaysia must now be tested for coronavirus
Senior minister says employers must foot the bill for testing
KUALA LUMPUR: Migrant workers in Malaysia are now required to be tested for the coronavirus, a minister said, as the government eased six-week long curbs.
Thousands of Malaysians joined yesterday's morning rush hour as businesses resumed for the first time since the imposition on March 18 of restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said foreign workers in all sectors must now undergo mandatory screening for Covid-19, after an outbreak was reported among migrants working at a Kuala Lumpur construction site last week.
"The costs for testing must be borne by the employer," Mr Ismail Sabri said.
There are about two million registered foreign workers in Malaysia, but the authorities say many more are living there without proper documents.
The migrant workers are mostly from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Nine of Malaysia's 13 states have expressed reservations over the easing move, opting to delay it or toughen restrictions for fear of a surge in infections.
Sabah said it would stick to a previous shutdown order that runs until May 12, to ensure people "are not exposed", Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said in a statement on Sunday.
But manufacturers are keen to get back to work, with some, such as tech firm Qdos Group, aiming to ramp up production.
Its chief executive Jeffrey Hwang said his company was focused on clearing a backlog in demand for its products, used to make medical equipment, while maintaining "absolute safety".
The government has estimated losses of RM63 billion (S$21 billion) and for the economy to turn in its worst performance in more than a decade due to the curbs.
Meanwhile, Indonesia reported 395 new infections yesterday, taking the total to 11,587. It reported 19 new deaths, taking the total to 864, while 1,954 have recovered.
In the Philippines, officials dressed up as Star Wars characters went around to enforce strict quarantine measures while also handing out relief packages. May 4 is celebrated as Star Wars Day.
With Darth Vader and Stormtrooper outfits made from rubber mats and old plastic, the youth leaders reminded villagers on the outskirts of Manila to stay indoors.
"We tell off residents who still go outdoors without the proper quarantine passes and also those who do not wear face masks. We make sure the government guidelines are properly followed," said Ms Muriel Baldago, an elected official in a Stormtrooper costume.
The Philippines reported 16 deaths and 262 additional cases.
The Health Ministry said total cases have risen to 9,485 while 623 people have died.
Thailand reported 18 more cases yesterday and no deaths.
The country now has a total of 2,987 cases and 54 deaths. - REUTERS