Factories Open During MCO Despite Contributing More Covid-19 Clusters

Factories and construction sites comprised 60% of 9,316 Covid-19 cases (reported on cluster declaration day) from 314 clusters reported Feb 22-April 2, and 47% of these clusters.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — All economic sectors, except spas and reflexology centres, are allowed to operate during the Movement Control Order (MCO) 3.0, despite factories and construction sites contributing the most Covid-19 clusters.

CodeBlue earlier reported that 47 per cent of 314 Covid-19 clusters reported nationwide from last February 22 to April 2 came from factories (48.06 per cent) and construction sites (11.56 per cent). 

In terms of Covid-19 cases contributed from these 314 clusters reported in that period, factories and construction sites jointly contributed about 60 per cent of 9,316 coronavirus infections reported on the first day a particular cluster was announced, at 48.06 per cent and 11.56 per cent respectively. (CodeBlue did not track how far those clusters have grown to date).

Yet, the MCO standard operating procedures (SOPs) announced by the National Security Council (NSC) yesterday only prohibits the operations of spas, reflexology centres, nightclubs, pubs, theme parks, indoor playgrounds, family karaoke centres, and cinemas.

For other permitted economic and business sectors in the private sector, the physical attendance of workers is limited to 30 per cent for employees in managerial and operational/ support positions, as determined by employers.

However, the NSC allows factories and construction sites to continue operations, besides permitting Ramadan and Aidilfitri bazaars, as well as night and day markets. Daycare and childhood care centres can also remain open during the MCO. 

The NSC has instead prohibited dine-ins in restaurants, as well as social and sports activities. The NSC’s general MCO SOP guideline that prohibits all sports and recreational activities contradicts the NSC’s own Selangor MCO guideline that allows individual and team sports and recreational activities in open areas like public parks, as well as indoor spaces, provided physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres is practiced.

The Selangor state government’s SOP also allows non-contact sports and recreational activities in open and indoor areas with physical distancing. 

In response to public outrage on the ban on outdoor physical exercise, the Youth and Sports Ministry today said that it will raise some proposed amendments at NSC’s special meeting for sports and recreational sectors in areas under MCO.

The Youths and Sports Ministry emphasised that fitness matters will not be ruled out in measures implemented to curb coronavirus transmission in the country.

The NSC prohibits in-person meetings in the public and private sectors, including seminars and training courses, and social events like kenduri, wedding and birthday celebrations, as well as tourism activities in and out of areas under MCO and enhanced MCO.

The Selangor state government earlier announced that during the MCO that has been implemented in six districts in Selangor — Gombak, Petaling, Klang, Kuala Langat, Hulu Langat, and Sepang — a 50 per cent occupancy limit is imposed on malls, bazaar raya, and night markets. 

According to CodeBlue’s analysis of the 314 Covid-19 clusters detected from February 22 to April 2, however, less than 38 per cent of the clusters originated from shopping or retail areas (7.01 per cent), social events (2.87 per cent), restaurants (0.96 per cent), travel (0.64 per cent), markets (0.32 per cent), hotels (0.32 per cent), recreational parks (0.32 per cent), training events (0.32 per cent), among others not related to factories, construction sites, and educational centres.

On the contribution of 9,316 Covid-19 cases from these 314 clusters (on the day the clusters were announced), non-workplaces similarly contributed a minority of infections in these clusters: shopping or retail areas (4.78 per cent), social events (1.78 per cent), restaurants (0.31 per cent), markets (0.27 per cent), recreational parks (0.26 per cent), travel (0.1 per cent), hotels (0.16 per cent), and training events (0.25 per cent). 

Community spread formed 15.29 per cent of the 314 Covid-19 clusters and 12.55 per cent of the 9,316 cases reported from those clusters on the day the clusters were announced. These community cases are picked up either from community screenings or mandated screenings like pre-surgery screenings; it is unclear from the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) reports on how or where such Covid-19 cases got infected exactly.

It is to be noted that the bigger share of the coronavirus clusters in that period of time were reported in Selangor (24.2 per cent), as the state has the biggest proportion of workforce and industries in Malaysia.

Since the government has mandated Covid-19 screenings for workers, positive cases in workplaces like factories would likely be picked up more frequently, while clusters may occur in these areas, including workers’ dormitories, due to lack of physical distancing. As workers also mix with people outside their workplace, the virus may then spread to the outside community.

The MCO has been implemented in six districts in Selangor from May 6 to 17, in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur from May 7 to 20, the whole of Kelantan until May 17, as well as several districts in Perak, Johor, and Terengganu from May 7 to 20.

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