Health D-G calls on embassies, employers, NGOs to work together to improve housing for foreign workers amid Covid-19 fight

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks at a press conference in Putrajaya June 1, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks at a press conference in Putrajaya June 1, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today laid out several steps to address and contain the Covid-19 outbreak among foreign workers in Malaysia.

Calling for collaboration involving employers, NGOs as well as foreign embassies, the health director-general said the housing issues for migrant workers must be addressed promptly to prevent the spread of Covid-19, along with other diseases.

“In accordance with the Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446), the problem of housing involving foreign workers, that are narrow and crowded, must be addressed soon, to prevent that from becoming a cause of the Covid-19 infection spread, along with other diseases.

“The embassies for foreign workers and other NGOs, are called on to also work together, to ensure that the best and effective communication methods can be used to communicate with the foreigners. This is to inform them of the situation and current happenings on Covid-19, as well as the guidelines which must be directly adhered to for foreigners,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

He said that foreign workers, especially those involved in the construction and security sectors in all red zones, must be screened for Covid-19, as per government order, while those employers of those  in the yellow and green zones are encouraged to take the initiative to screen their employees.

Dr Noor Hisham said that employers must also take the responsibility to educate their foreign workers on hygiene practises which have been recommended by the ministry, in order to contain the virus outbreak.

“Employers must also ensure that their workers housing abides by the set standard operating procedures (SOPs), which are; social distancing, homes are not crowded and narrow, and workers do not chat within a close range and the cleanliness of their lodgings are cared for, especially areas which are for common use and those which are regularly used,” he added.

Parliament’s Lower House had passed the amendment to the Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 in July last year, which was endorsed by the Senate in September.

Enforcement had been scheduled for June 1, 2020.

However, Human Resource Minister Datuk M. Saravanan Saravanan last month said that the government will delay enforcement for three months until August 31 to give employers time to make the necessary preparations.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) later vehemently objected to the government’s move.

MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said employers have had ample time to comply even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck Malaysia, pointing out that the amendments were approved in September 2019.

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