Malaysia imposes mandatory Covid screening for 1.7m foreign workers

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Employers will be fined RM50,000 per worker staff if housed in crowded spaces

PETALING JAYAMalaysia 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 yesterday, the authorities will also start imposing a fine of RM50,000 (S$16,450) per worker if employers house their foreign staff in crowded spaces.

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

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

"It is better to test early and pay the bill rather than wait 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, the government will pay RM60 per employee for the rapid antigen test.

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

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

He said Top Glove is the single biggest contributor to the country's 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 have been ordered closed, while another would be ordered to close pending Covid-19 screening of all its employees and a 14-day quarantine order, if necessary.

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

He said a task force had been set up to monitor the situation at Top Glove factories.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's embattled prime minister, Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, survived a crucial test yesterday when MPs voted in favour of his budget - a much-needed boost for his crisis-wracked, nine-month-old government.

The 2021 spending plan - which focuses on fighting the coronavirus pandemic - was passed by voice vote, so it was not clear how many of the country's 222 MPs backed it.

At RM322.5 billion, it is the country's biggest-ever budget.

Mr Muhyiddin hailed the victory, saying the budget was "crucial for the nation, and this support will enable the government to carry out all its plans next year".

There will be further votes on the budget, but yesterday's was seen as the most important. - THE STAR, AFP