KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — The manufacturing sector merely contributed 6.1 per cent of more than a million Covid-19 cases reported nationwide from June 1 to August 30 this year, Mohamed Azmin Ali said.
The minister of international trade and industry, citing Ministry of Health (MOH) data, said 761 coronavirus clusters, or 30.2 per cent of 2,521 clusters recorded in that period, were detected in the manufacturing sector.
A total of 70,317 cases were found in those 761 clusters in the manufacturing sector, comprising 6.1 per cent of 1,153,000 new Covid-19 cases reported overall from June 1 to August 30.
“Therefore, it is not accurate to say that nearly all Covid-19 cases in our country solely stemmed from transmission in the manufacturing sector since, as per the period of time I stated, only 6.1 per cent were related to the manufacturing sector,” Azmin told Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir in a written parliamentary reply last Tuesday.
“The biggest contributor of total cases, comprising nearly 70 per cent, is from sporadic cases, not clusters.”
The international trade and industry (MITI) minister also noted that even though the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector was permitted to operate, based on MOH data from June 1 to July 23 this year, the 9,026 Covid-19 cases reported in that sector comprised just 2.2 per cent of overall new cases detected in that period.
“Therefore, I’m of the opinion that targeted closures or lockdowns are more effective than taking the easy approach of closing down all factories, which although did not occur during the surge of cases, could affect the source of income for many Malaysians.”
Azmin, in a separate reply to Padang Serai MP Karupaiya Mutusami, acknowledged that factories contributed 53.2 per cent, or 12,399 of 23,321 cluster-related Covid-19 cases in Selangor from June 1 to August 6 this year.
However, Azmin pointed out that the factory sector merely comprised 4.7 per cent of 264,440 overall new coronavirus infections recorded in Selangor in the same period.
He also noted that the 12,399 cases in Selangor factories comprised just 2.13 per cent of 581,440 factory workers in Selangor, citing Department of Statistics Malaysia numbers for the first quarter of this year for the latter figure.
“In this matter, I wish to refer to the Health director-general’s press statement on June 21, 2021, where he stated that sporadic cases contributed 69 per cent of total cases from January 1 to June 19, 2021,” Azmin said in his written reply to Karupaiya last Tuesday.
“Therefore, it can be concluded that the transmission of Covid-19 cases leans towards sporadic infection, with the remaining that can be classified as cluster-related cases. And when we talk about cluster-type infections, like workplace clusters for example, this refers to clusters in factories, manufacturing, retail, and a few other workplace categories that are often linked to the source of transmission.
“However, the number of clusters does not give a true picture because whatever is reported is solely in the context of clusters and does not refer completely to overall individual daily cases.”
“Sporadic” or unlinked Covid-19 cases simply means that these infections could not be traced to another case, due to extremely limited testing and contact tracing capacity at the peak of the epidemic that saw about 20,000 new infections detected every day.
It is possible that people could still have been infected at their workplaces, such as factories, and subsequently infected other people in the community, but their source of infection is unknown.
In another written parliamentary reply to Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, Azmin said MITI has received only 4,775 applications from companies operating factories and related services for [email protected]
[email protected] is a government programme that enables factories to implement safe work bubbles by sending infected workers to hospital, while enabling close contacts among coworkers to continue working pending Covid-19 test results.
The government provides tax rebates of up to RM50,000 to [email protected] participating companies for rental of accommodation and facilities in workers’ accommodation.
“Besides the voluntary factor in companies’ registration for [email protected], the main factor contributing to the low registration rate is obligations for participating companies to tighter [email protected] SOPs (standard operating procedures), compared to general SOPs for the factory sector,” Azmin told Ong.
“At the same time, MITI is also facing difficulties in outreach programmes to industry associations, chambers of commerce, and individual companies because of a surge of Covid-19 cases.
“However, companies in the factory sector are actively registering for the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PIKAS) by MITI to ensure that industry workers get vaccinated immediately.”