Vaccination for factory workers should be expedited, says MEF

MEF urges the govt to urgently set up the proposed national vaccine centre and harness the utilisation of local experts and resources

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by AFP

VACCINATION programme for the manufacturing sector should be expedited as the high infectivity rate among its factory workers is inevitable due to the continual operation of essential industries, said Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman.

“The way forward to address the current and rapid transaction of the coronavirus and the rising clusters is to raise the level of immunity of the employees against Covid-19,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

For the past one week, between June 14 and June 20, a total of 96 workplace clusters have been detected, based on the Health Ministry’s data.

Syed Hussain said this is despite employers implementing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) provided by the National Security Council and making sure that there is no lapse in the adherence to the SOPs.

“It is noted that clusters and positive cases involving foreign workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors have been on the rise.

“There are still cases (reported) despite the fact that employers having been taking precautionary measures, taking lessons from the previous outbreak among their workers,” he said.

As all of the 17 economic sectors are allowed to operate during the third Movement Control Order, Syed Hussain said employees with field jobs should be prioritised in immunisation.

The Human Resources Ministry said a total of 699,281 foreign workers had been tested for the coronavirus as of Monday and 10,354 have been found positive.

Due to the series of Covid-19 outbreak among factory and construction workers, the government introduced another category under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, dubbed as the Public-Private Partnership Industrial Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (Pikas), to cater to the manufacturing sector.

Pikas began on June 16 with on-site vaccination at designated factories in industrial locations, focusing on critical manufacturing subsectors such as electrical and electronics, food processing, iron and steel, medical devices, personal protective equipment, oil and gas and rubber products.

Recently, the Construction Industry Development Board also offered Covid-19 vaccines to 40,000 workers in the construction industry.

“The National Recovery Plan (NRP) has provided employers with a realistic roadmap to return their life to normalcy by year-end. However, there is also a need to put in place a long-term safeguard to ensure that Malaysia would not have to face another lockdown situation again.

“MEF supports the NRP as it provides employers with a clearer roadmap that is spread over four phases and determined by identified indicators at certain periodic intervals,” Syed Hussain said.

Although the weekly new cases trend in Malaysia has shown a decline in the past two weeks, positive cases related to the workplace continued to contribute to the increase of new clusters in the country.

The manufacturing sector recorded the highest total number of cases at 95,156 with 639 clusters and due to the nature of the 14-day incubation period, it is difficult to determine the origin of the infection, said Syed Hussain.

“Swab test done at the workplace, therefore, any cases detected will be classified as workplace cluster even if an employee is infected elsewhere.

“We must remain resolute in our aim to ensure that our employees and the public are safe and protected from Covid-19 infection and look beyond the current lockdown situation to ensure that there would be no more lockdowns in future.”

The MEF urges the government to urgently set up the proposed national vaccine centre to deal with issues of long-term vaccine supply and its efficacy by harnessing the utilisation of local experts and resources.

“Though the number of people being vaccinated has been encouraging recently, the vaccine supply is often disrupted by high demand due to factors such as increased orders for third boosters by other countries that are dealing with the emergence of Covid-19 variants and mutations.”