IDEAS: Address workplace cluster based on facts and research

by NURUL SUHAIDI / Pic by BERNAMA

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and Bait Al-Amanah are appealing to the incoming government to address Covid-19 workplace clusters with a new and effective approach based on research and facts.

It is referring to the research findings of Penang-based Stanford mathematician Dr. David Benjamin Lim, calculated based on mathematical models using data from the official Health Ministry GitHub.

The data show that workplace clusters had a significant impact on the basic reproduction number, Ro/Rt, in Penang, Johor, and Negeri Sembilan during the first six weeks of total lockdown, which began on June 1, 2021.

For the first four weeks of the total lockdown, the same case can be made for the Klang Valley.

According to the study, there is significant evidence that if there were no more workplace clusters over this time period, the Covid-19 distribution would have diminished.

The fundamental reason may be entirely plausible that a small subgroup of the population is very infectious (has a high Ro/Rt) and hence contributes significantly to Malaysia’s overall cases of Covid-19.

Hence, the recent claim by our former International Trade and Industry Minister that the contribution of the manufacturing sector to daily cases is minimal is inaccurate.

Moving forward, both companies suggested Malaysia should implement targeted measures at these workplace clusters and learn from the past ineffective blanket lockdown.

“We cannot keep enforcing the same measures and expect different results.

“We cannot keep punishing entire firms and sectors that do not have any clusters, especially those that are outdoors and have plenty of air. Only granular data will reveal which specific industries are contributing clusters,” it said in a statement today.

IDEAS also proposed several measures to tackle workplace clusters which include the targeted lockdown on factories with active Covid-19 clusters.

Next, by effectively enforcing the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations, and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 446), sufficient accommodation for migrant workers with adequate living conditions and proper physical separation would be established.

“Isolate suspected or positive Covid-19 cases at a dedicated point similar to self-quarantine and where possible, workplaces should promote good ventilation practices to reduce Covid-19 airborne transmission,” it added.

Increased vaccination efforts targeted toward the industry players, local and migrant workers and increased enforcement on illegal factories that employ undocumented migrant workers without the rightful measures in place, should also be done.

In addition to the recommendations above based on the research findings, IDEAS also proposed the need to plan ahead to boost intensive care units’ (ICU) capacities.

“This can be done by rapidly constructing purpose-built ICU facilities with High Dependency Units located near major hospitals, based on expertise from other nations,” it said.

Finally, the government should advocate for open and transparent data exchange as part of a whole-of-society response to the Covid-19 outbreak.