PUTRAJAYA (Feb 14): The Cabinet has asked the Home Ministry to give leeway to face mask producers to hire more foreign workers to ramp up production in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Speaking to reporters after chairing a special meeting on Covid-19 at Perdana Putra here today, she said the matter will be handled by the Home and Human Resources ministries very soon.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) chairman, explained that before the new coronavirus outbreak, face masks were only used among healthcare personnel but demand skyrocketed followed the spread of COVID-19.
“Face mask producers told us that they need to operate round the clock (three shifts) to ramp up production.
“However, there will be still control on intake of foreign workers because we do not want a surge (of foreign workers) in the country,” she said.
Dr Wan Azizah said steps to supervise supply and pricing of face masks in the market had been taken to prevent purchase in bulk to be brought out of the country.
Directives had also been issued to the state headquarters and branches of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to ensure sellers exercise self-control and do not sell in bulk to customers, she said.
“There are quotas for sale of face masks so that there is adequate supply in the country and to prevent parties buying in bulk to be sent overseas,” he said.
In a related matter, Dr Wan Azizah said Malaysia would not allow foreign ships to dock in the country unless they share important information that is required by the Malaysian authorities.
According to her, the Malaysian Immigration Department had reported attempts/application to dock from two cruise ships from Hong Kong namely Westerdam and Sapphire Princess.
However, she said Westerdam with 1,000 passengers on board, which docked in Hong Kong before going to Taiwan on Feb 1, had initially stated its intention to dock in Malaysia but was given permission to do so in Cambodia yesterday (Feb 13) whereas Sapphire Princess safely docked in Singapore.
Commenting on the drastic rise in Covid-19 cases in China, she said it was because of a change in definition for positive Covid-19 cases in Hubei province, the worst-hit area of the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
“The latest is that any patient in Hubei showing all Covid-19 symptoms but have not been confirmed positive through laboratory tests are categorised as positive cases (clinically diagnosed cases),” she said.
However, she underscored that according to the World Health Organisation, there was no drastic rise in the number of positive Covid-19 cases outside China.
She explained that Malaysia was not following Hubei in defining Covid-19 cases.
“In Malaysia, the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) from early on has been ready (to conduct laboratory tests,” she noted.
The meeting was also attended by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman, Chief Secrertary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali and Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud.