Screen Workers To Preempt Covid-19 Outbreaks, Factory Owners Told

By Ashswita Ravindran | 20 April 2021

The Selangor Task Force Operation selects areas for screening based on artificial intelligence that forecasts where Covid-19 cases will be reported.

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HULU LANGAT, April 20 — Factory owners should screen their workers for Covid-19 early to prevent outbreaks that would be far costlier to business, Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming said.

Ong — during a Covid-19 community screening programme held in Taming Jaya, Balakong, along with the Selangor Task Force Operation (STFO) — pointed out that factory owners in the Selesa Jaya Industrial Area, Taming Jaya Industrial Area, and Balakong Jaya Industrial Area were reluctant to send their workers for screening because they feared closure of their factory if positive Covid-19 cases were detected.

“You detect early before it goes much much serious. There’s new clusters being discovered all the time and by the time you discover (cases), it becomes a cluster, it’s too late already,” Ong told CodeBlue.

Ong said factory owners get to screen their workers for free in Selangor, which will enable them to detect positive Covid-19 cases early before the coronavirus spreads throughout the workplace.

“You do it early, you can limit the number. You do it later or you do it by yourself, it’s more costly to you and by the time you want to do testing, it will be too late already. Instead of three or four workers, you will get 30 or 40 workers and that time you need to shut down your kilang,” Ong stressed.

“These guys think short term, they don’t think long term.”

On April 8, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new cluster in Jalan Taming among factory workers. A total of nine Covid-19 cases were detected among 19 individuals who were screened in this cluster, translating to a positivity rate of 47.3 per cent.

The Bangi MP pointed out that these factory workers live within the community, mostly in shoplots in which they interact with the locals. This fosters spillover of Covid-19 infection from workplace clusters to the community.

Ye Seo Win, a foreign worker from Myanmar who works as a lorry mechanic at a factory in Taming Jaya, told CodeBlue that he has been tested for Covid-19 thrice before and doesn’t mind getting screened again because he works in an area where he has heard many people testing positive for Covid-19.

“I am also scared. I have heard people testing positive for Covid-19 here and there,” said Ye, who lives in a terrace house in a residential area with three other people who work at the same factory as him.

Undocumented Workers Fear Police, Don’t Want To Be Screened

People waiting to be screened for Covid-19 during a community screening programme at Jalan Medan Belimbing, Balakong, Hulu Langat, on March 27, 2021. Picture by Ashswita Ravindran.

Meanwhile, Kajang local councillor Billy Sun said another reason why factory owners may be reluctant to screen their workers is that they are afraid that their undocumented workers may be caught by the authorities during the screening programme.

“The other thing is, when police are around, they are worried. I told the police that we are here to help the community. I want the whole area, industrial area to be safe (from Covid-19),” Sun said.

In terms of residents of Taming Jaya, Sun pointed out that many don’t take the initiative to get themselves screened because they assume that Covid-19 won’t infect them but others.

“We are safe, everybody takes it for granted we are safe. Only other people will get it. We won’t get it.”

“One family has five persons. If you go and do Covid-19 test at the general practitioner (GP) or wherever, you need easily RM500. You can save the money you can do it here. Do it free, you can spend RM200 or RM300 for lunch and dinner, you can make a family gathering,” Sun said, referring to how he usually encourages families to get themselves screened.

Retired 68-year-old Jamaluddin Harun brought his family to get screened because the programme was free and he wanted to know if he was positive for Covid-19.

“I have no positive contact, but I want to know. I stay at a terrace house with four family members. Although I stay at home most of the time, my children go out to work and come home,” Jamaluddin said.

Selangor Task Force Operation Selects Screening Areas Using Artificial Intelligence

Community programme administrator for the Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 (STFC), Dr Nurul Solihin Nurul Hasnan. Picture by Ashswita Ravindran, taken at Jalan Medan Belimbing, Balakong, Hulu Langat on March 27, 2021.

STFO community programme administrator Dr Nurul Solihin Nurulhasnan said STFO selects a place to carry out a screening programme by using Artificial Intelligence For Medical Imaging (AIMI), which forecasts which areas will have Covid-19 cases.

This depends on data on Covid-19 cases collected from the district health office (PKD).

“So, for example, yesterday we did a screening programme at Sungai Chua. There was a cluster reported two days before that but we already selected that location, one week earlier. So, it correlates to our forecast,” Dr Solihin told CodeBlue on April 11.

Once a location is selected, STFO, along with elected representatives, reach out to community leaders to encourage them to spread the word on the Covid-19 screening programme.

“These leaders will talk to all factories and all. They will also talk to all the hostels where these workers live and they will try to get them around here as well as the community around here.”

However, Dr Solihin noted that roughly only 10 per cent of factory owners agreed to send their workers for testing, while the rest were afraid of factory closures.

“They can isolate, they can create a bubble for positive cases. The closing of industry is not up to us; it’s actually up to the PKD what’s the right solution. If the spread is little, by right, they have to create the bubble themselves and isolate at home.”

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