Migrant Worker Covid-19 Cluster Hits Malaysia

A coronavirus cluster at a factory in Pedas, Negri Sembilan, infected 53 foreign nationals and seven Malaysians.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Covid-19 infections have hit foreign workers in Malaysia, as health authorities reported 57 coronavirus cases among immigrants today out of 68 new cases.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) highlighted updates about a coronavirus cluster infecting workers at a factory in Pedas, Negri Sembilan, that was previously announced on May 2 after a worker fell sick on April 5 and tested positive for Covid-19 on April 12.

As of noon today, health authorities have screened 786 people for coronavirus comprising factory workers and their family members.

Out of that, 60 tested positive for coronavirus, 286 tested negative, and 440 are still awaiting test results. The positive cases comprised seven Malaysians and 53 foreign nationals: 25 Nepalis, 18 Bangladeshis, eight Indonesians, and two Myanmarese.

The cause of infection for this cluster is still under investigation.

MOH yesterday reported a Covid-19 cluster involving security guards at a shopping centre in Cheras here, comprising nine Nepali nationals and one Malaysian. All nine Nepali patients had been living in the same residence in Cheras.

Today’s 68 new Covid-19 cases included four imported infections and three from Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) areas, leaving 61 community transmissions. No new fatalities were recorded. Malaysia has confirmed 6,535 Covid-19 cases as of today, including 1,564 active infectious cases who are all in hospital. A total of 18 Covid-19 patients are still in the intensive care unit (ICU), including seven on ventilator support.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged workers who suffer from respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, or breathing difficulty to avoid going to work and to seek medical attention at the nearest government clinic.

He also said the Human Resources Department in Peninsular Malaysia has prepared a guideline on managing Covid-19 at the workplace that has been inserted into MOH’s Guideline on Covid-19 Management in Malaysia No. 5/ 2020.

MOH told employers to allow workers to get health screenings, paid for by the company, and to give paid sick leave to workers with symptoms.

Companies must also provide temperature and symptom checks before people enter the workplace; hand sanitisers or a place to wash hands; frequent disinfection, especially of common areas; and safe distancing of at least 1 metre in work and eating areas, like avoiding confined areas, avoiding gatherings in confined spaces like the pantry, and maintaining one metre when speaking to each other.

Dr Noor Hisham also said since Malaysia implemented the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) on May 4 — reopening most businesses and allowing individuals freedom of movement, while barring interstate travel — big factories have been complying with MOH’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) in avoiding Covid-19 transmission.

“They have the capacity and means to provide the services and in fact to comply with the SOP, so the compliance is very high among big factories,” he said.

“But our concern is with the smaller industries to comply. Having said that, our SOP is not that difficult to comply [with]. First, social distancing; second, hand-washing; third, put on a mask; try to avoid public gatherings. That is our SOP for them. So we hope they can comply to the simple measures that can be done.”

Singapore has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, driven by a spike in infections among migrant workers. South China Morning Post reported that Covid-19 cases in Singapore more than quadrupled from 1,000 cases on April 1 to 4,427 infections on April 16, including 60 per cent from foreign workers living in dormitories.

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