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FMM clears misconception on Covid-19 cases factory clusters

FMM In The News: THE SUN DAILY, KUALA LUMPUR, Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) wishes to clear the misconception on the repeated allegations in the media on factories as a primary source of COVID-19 infections.

In a statement today, FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai (pix) said quoting data from the Ministry of Health (MOH), the majority of cases especially in 2021 have been sporadic ones and not originated from clusters including workplace clusters.

It is evident from data released by the MOH on June 21 that 69 per cent (398,846 out of 578,105) of COVID-19 cases recorded this year until June 19 were sporadic cases.

"While it must be acknowledged that the risk of factory infections cannot be totally eliminated especially now with the high percentage of sporadic cases and with the virus in the community, this most certainly cannot be equated to the lack of standard operating procedures (SOP) compliance by factories and is a very unfair conclusion to be made.

"With the rise in the sporadic cases, managing the entry of infections into the factory or hostels has become more challenging for the industry despite the SOP and preventive measures in place including swab tests because the virus may still go into factories especially through the asymptomatic sporadic cases," he said.

Soh said these sources of infections were often not traced back to the community where it most likely originated from but to the factory when one community-related infection among the workers leads to more workers getting tested due to close contact tracing done.

"This, in turn, is reported as a workplace cluster by the authorities giving rise to the misconception that workplaces, especially factories, are the primary source of infection.

"Hence, it is important that the government makes its lockdown decisions based on science and data, and not on misconception," he added.

He said he government should close only specific companies where cases are detected but not declare Enhanced Movement Control Order on an entire area/district or state and impose strict operation conditions on all businesses as it is unfair to unaffected companies especially those that have a clean record and have maintained the highest levels of SOP and workplace preventive measures.

It must also be noted that the lockdown in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur was implemented not due to rising work clusters as claimed in a recent media article but to address the worrying and fast rising sporadic cases in the Klang Valley, he said.

"If all factories are forced to shut, the impact would be most devastating on the economy as manufacturing sector has been the pillar of economic growth, following the positive growth in the fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 economic performance.

"As the catalyst of growth contributing around 23 per cent of gross domestic product including 86 per cent of total exports and the main source of demand for output from the other economic sectors, it is very clear that the manufacturing sector must be allowed to continue to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.

He said businesses cannot be sustained if factory operations are closed or reduced in capacity and it will lead to knock-on effects in the economy with significant loss of jobs due to the extensive supply chains and networks involved in manufacturing.

"If industries remain closed for too long, it could cause economic stagnation and irreparable damage to the economy including possible exodus of foreign investors and reduction in domestic investments," he said. – Bernama

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