[ UPDATE 24/1/2021 23:00 ]: Eurocham has issued a statement denying that the government was mulling a shutdown. More details here.
Putrajaya is set to announce a total economic shutdown after February 4, should the number of COVID-19 cases in the nation continue to not show any improvement, the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) said in a letter issued to its members.
A source linked to the organisation confirmed the authenticity of the letter with Malay Mail.
The letter detailed a summary of Eurocham Malaysia chief executive Sven Schneider’s meeting with the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti), which mentioned that the Ministry of Health (MOH) “has made a clear stand on the matter of a complete shutdown of the economy”.
“Should the infection rate not decrease, the Malaysian government will announce a shutdown/strict lockdown immediately after February 4, 2021. This is the current situation we are facing and Miti is appealing to all companies, foreign and local, to join the effort of reducing infections, breaking the chain, to keep the economy open for business,” the letter further read.
The letter stated that Schneider was invited to attend the “very important and urgent meeting” at Miti, on the evening of January 22, and that the meeting was chaired by the ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali.
It also stated that the MOH believed it is the manufacturing sector, with 99 COVID-19 clusters, which is the main source of infection.
“Since in particular, dormitories and related activities (transportation, social activities) were identified as problems, while manufacturing sites itself usually demonstrate sufficient compliance, Miti brainstormed together with the present chambers of commerce a few potential measures.
“While we are awaiting more information from the Ministry and since time is of the essence, we share the preliminary outcomes here with you,” the letter read, listing several points.
Eurocham Malaysia requested companies to assign at least one human resource supervisor to manage and coordinate foreign workers or workers staying in dormitories, adding that the main goal for this is to minimise community movement, social activities and thereby compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the movement control order (MCO).
It said that this was because often, workers in dormitories were found not to practise SOP compliance and engage unnecessarily in extensive social activities in or outside the dormitories.
“Companies are requested to also take responsibility in cases where foreign workers’ management or housing have been outsourced to employment agencies. There have been cases where poor housing conditions or transportation compliance by the agent has led to rising infections. Companies sometimes are not aware, but the government encourages to strengthen communication and coordination with employment agencies and outsourcing partners for the benefit of all.
“Companies are requested to establish basic quarantine spaces at their dormitories to ensure that suspected cases, close contacts and confirmed COVID-19 cases can be isolated/quarantined immediately and reduce risk of further spread. Any immediate and short-term measures are welcomed to reduce infections,” the organisation said.
It added that workers staying at home with family, may also be offered to stay at company quarantine facilities, should they and close contacts be suspected or tested positive.
“In the context of transportation, companies have to ensure social distancing and thereby reduction to 50 per cent of capacity of each vehicle is suggested. This will also be reflected in official SOPs, since we discovered yesterday an inconsistency in the current SOPs,” it said, adding that companies will also have to check with their respective supply chain partners for SOP compliance.
“There was also a discussion regarding testing capacity and contact tracing. There may be updates on this matter during the next few days as well.
“We understand that this must seem as another major challenge and potentially costly changes may have to be made. Nonetheless, Eurocham encourages its members to do whatever you can to reduce infections, break the chain and keep the economy open,” it said.
The record for daily new cases of COVID-19 in Malaysia was broken once again, with 4,275 cases reported yesterday.
However, daily recoveries from the disease also reached a new high, with 4,313 people reported to have been given a clean bill of health.
The MOH on its website for COVID-19 updates said active cases of COVID-19 in the country currently number 42,769; while the total number of confirmed cases in Malaysia has hit 180,455. ― Malay Mail