Minister: All foreign workers in Malaysia to undergo Covid-19 testing, employers to foot bill

Foreign workers queue up to be tested for Covid-19 at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Foreign workers queue up to be tested for Covid-19 at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — All foreign workers in Malaysia will now have to go for Covid-19 testing, with their employers to bear the cost of the swab tests, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.

Ismail Sabri said that Malaysia had, for the past two days, recorded an increase in new Covid-19 cases, which he said was detected among foreign workers at a construction site in Ampang which has since been ordered to close by the Public Works Department.

“The meeting today agreed to make it compulsory for all foreign workers in all sectors, whether in construction, factories, commercial, including restaurants, to undergo Covid-19 screening. They have to undergo swab tests, and the screening costs will be borne by their employers.

“And the Health Ministry proposes to start these swab tests in the Federal Territories and Selangor,” he said in a press conference broadcast “live” today after the Cabinet’s daily meetings.

In order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 disease, Ismail Sabri said the government will not hesitate to shut down any place including construction sites, factories, restaurants or any businesses if any Covid-19 cases are detected among employees.

At the press conference, Ismail Sabri did not elaborate further on the decision to now make it mandatory for all foreign workers to undergo Covid-19 screening.

It is unclear how many foreign workers are currently in the country, but the Home Ministry had previously provided statistics at the last Dewan Rakyat meeting stretching from October to December last year.

In a written parliamentary reply to Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, the Home Ministry said that it considered foreign workers working legally in Malaysia as referring to less skilled foreign workers in the six allowed sectors of construction, factories, services, plantations and agriculture, quarries and mining.

The Home Ministry then said the Immigration Department of Malaysia’s records show that the number of foreign workers who were given valid and active visit passes for temporary work were at over 1.79 million in 2017 and at over 2.015 million in 2018.

As for the period from January 1 to October 31, 2019, the number of such foreign workers legally present in Malaysia was at 1,994,566 or over 1.99 million, with the majority of them being male (1,620,990) while the remaining are female at 373,576.

As for foreign workers the Home Ministry considered as illegal immigrants, the ministry said it does not have accurate estimates of their number.

Immigration Department statistics show that the legally-registered foreign workers in Malaysia as of May 31, 2019 consist of those from multiple countries, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos.


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