MTUC: One-off test not enough to keep workplaces free of Covid-19 

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 16): The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the government to come out with clear guidelines and directives on the screening of workers for Covid-19, saying a lot of confusion remains on the ground. 

“The government must spell out exactly how frequently workers need be tested for Covid-19 in ensuring that only those free of the deadly virus are allowed to turn up for work,” MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said in a statement today. 

Referring to the government’s announcement that the Social Security Organisation (Socso) would pay for the tests of all workers who contribute to the fund, including foreign workers, Solomon said this implied that the tests would be a one-off screening as a pre-condition for them to return to work. 

“However, it is clear a one-off or single test on workers, specifically foreign employees currently targeted for the screening, is far from enough to ensure workplaces remain free of Covid-19 outbreaks. 

“Employees need to undergo testing periodically to achieve this objective. However the government has been silent on this important aspect,” he said. 

The MTUC is however against Socso footing the bill for periodic testing.

“We reiterate that Socso funds which are designated for the social needs of the workers must not be used for Covid-19 screenings as it is clearly the responsibility of the government and employers to do so. 

“Sadly, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has failed to address this important matter in his daily press conferences. 

“If workers are only required to undergo a single one-off test, what happens if one or more employees are later found to be infected with Covid-19? Will the whole workforce be quarantined and undergo testing. Will the workplace be shuttered? 

“There is still a lot of ambiguity on the government’s move to enforce Covid-19 screening for foreign workers who remain a vital cog in the economy,” said Solomon.

He urged the government to urgently come out with clear guidelines and a relevant FAQ to address the various scenarios pertaining to Covid-19 testing for employees. 

Solomon noted that on Monday, Ismail Sabri had told the media that the government was looking into getting employers to provide a tag or identification to indicate that a foreign worker has undergone a Covid-19 swab test. The senior minister said the tag was to enable the public to identify foreign workers who had undergone a Covid-19 test.

“However, yesterday the Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Ministry of Health (MoH) was only agreeable to providing letters valid for a specific time frame for employers to affirm workers who tested negative for the virus. 

“Dr Noor Hisham has rightly stressed that Covid-19 negative tag or identification cannot be issued to employees who have undergone the tests as it might give the impression that the person can no longer be infected,” said Solomon.

He noted that the MoH has clearly stated that workers can still be infected by Covid-19 beyond a certain time frame, after undergoing the test, if they are exposed to the virus. 

“In view of this, the government and employers must not give the impression that a single test will be enough to ensure the safety of employees and minimise the possibility of outbreaks at workplaces. 

“As the government dials down many of the restrictions introduced on March 18 in its bid to kick-start the economy, the safety of workers must remain a top priority as it is a prerequisite in ensuring businesses remain open,” he added. 

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