by ANIS HAZIM
DEMAND to reopen industries in stages growing louder as the prolonged lockdown has heavily impacted the construction industry and the building materials supply chain since Movement Control Order (MCO) 3.0 was implemented on June 1, 2021.
Currently, the operating rate of construction sites is low and most of the contractors in operation have taken note of the shortage of existing building material stocks and will most likely run out in the near future, Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) in a statement yesterday.
“Following the government’s announcement in maintaining standard operating procedures (SOP) of the Full Movement Control Order (FMCO) through Phase 1 of National Recovery Plan (NRP), most economic activities are still not allowed and the construction industry is one of the most affected,” MBAM president Tan Sri Sufri Mohd Zin said.
MBAM together with 35 associations in the construction industry have sent a joint memorandum to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to prioritise vaccination to construction industry workers and the building materials supply chain.
Sufri said that vaccination priority should be given to the industry under Phase 2 of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Program (PICK) with a target of full vaccination or two doses by the third quarter of 2021, and the reopening of the construction industry in stages and by priority.
“We strongly support the efforts and initiatives of Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) and Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) to date. However, we hope that the vaccine supply delivery schedule will be improved to achieve the set vaccination rates,” Sufri said.
MBAM is also pleased with the implementation of Construction Industry Vaccination Program (CIVac) by Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia, which led by Ministry of Works to expedite vaccination among construction workforce to achieve the appropriate percentage of herd immunity.
“However, with the allocation of CIVac vaccines for only 40,000 workers in Phase 1 and 100,000 workers in Phase 2, which is only 10% of the total construction industry workforce comprising about 1.4 million people, it is feared that the target of herd immunity networks will not be achieved,” Sufri said.
At the same time, MBAM also pleaded the government to consider a more pragmatic and humane approach to foreign workers in construction industry, especially those who hold expired travel documents or work passes but are stranded in Malaysia due to lack of transportation back to their country of origin.
“Because the success of vaccination strategies at the national level is highly dependent on vaccination by as many Malaysians as possible, the exclusion of a large group can deliberately affect the timeline in achieving herd immunity,” he said.
He noted that priority should be given to national vaccination targets over mere enforcement of immigration rules.
“We would also like to appeal for the vaccination process of construction workers to be carried out by mobile vaccination centres (PPV) which are deployed to dormitories or workers-centred residences, in order to reduce mass movement to static PPV and minimise the interaction between the workers and the local community,” Sufri said.
He added that the reopening of the construction industry should start from now and not in Phase 3 of NRP is not very helpful in MBAM members’ planning.
“The extension of Phase 1 to July 2021 without a clear end date is also a sign that the transition to the next NRP phase remains subjective,” he said.
Thus, MBAM recommends that the reopening of the construction industry to be implemented in stages and in order of priority, with flexibility to some sectors to resume operations when part of their workforce has been vaccinated, with strict SOPs even among fully vaccinated employees.
In addition, MBAM requested that the SOPs for construction industry and all related subsectors be issued early before the implementation date of any new restrictions or regulations, rather than being introduced at the last minute.
“This is to help contractors and all elements of the construction supply chain make adequate preparations in the implementation of the SOP,” Sufri added.
Separately, The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) has reported the same movement made by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).
FMM has proposed the government to review the three thresholds of the NRP and other critical actions for a faster transition to Phase 2.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai stated that the speed of vaccination is the key to economies moving back to normalisation which will then enable economies to relax restrictions and dismantle border curbs and minimise the need for lockdowns.
FMM also implored for companies with the Industry and Trade Ministry’s (MITI) Covid-19 Intelligent Management System (CIMS) approval should be allowed to continue to operate at the 10% capacity under the EMCO as it is very costly to switch the machinery and equipment off and on.