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FMM warns industries to tighten SOPs or face another full-scale lockdown

FMM In The News: THE EDGE MARKETS, KUALA LUMPUR, Monday, January 25, 2021: As fears of another national full-scale lockdown rise, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has called on the industry to play its part by taking additional proactive and preventive measures to tighten the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) at workplaces and living quarters of employees in order to contain the current rapid spread of Covid-19.

If the transmission of the coronavirus is not urgently managed now, FMM warned that the business sector may not survive another strict lockdown as it will have a devastating impact on business survival and job security. 

"The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) strongly believes that it is important for the current infections and clusters to be managed effectively so that the chain of infections (can) be broken swiftly as we, the business sector, cannot withstand another round of total lockdown similar to the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020," its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said in a statement today. 

The federation took concern of the alarming update that there are currently 99 out of 318 active Covid-19 clusters which are traced from the manufacturing sector.

As such, FMM has issued another reminder to all of its members on the additional measures that must be taken to protect the workforce and contain the spread of infections. 

They include providing greater attention to the living conditions for all workers, testing all foreign workers as quickly as possible, ensuring transportation runs at under half capacity, appointing senior management to oversee compliance, establishing dedicated isolation areas for suspected or positive cases and minimising worker movements.

Additionally, FMM has also called on the government to continue supporting the industry by facilitating all employers as they work to comply with the requirements and directives set by the authorities. 

For instance, FMM appealed to the government to agree to subsidise the cost of RTK-antigen test kits so that employers can complete the mandatory screening quickly, ensure clinics adhere to the gazetted costs of tests for all including foreign workers, and make sure lab capacity is sufficient to deliver timely test results.

FMM also highlighted that a transparent and comprehensive national Covid-19 vaccination programme for the entire population is crucial at not only preserving public health and lives but also for economic recovery.

"An early announcement of the national vaccination programme and the prioritised groups are critical towards the industries’ business continuity plans. It must be recognised that as long as the pandemic pervades, the growth and investments by the private sector will remain subdued and the economic recovery will continue to be sluggish.

"We are all front liners in this fight against Covid-19 and each and every one of us must have the collective responsibility to support the government’s continued efforts in flattening the Covid-19 curve while ensuring the economic wellbeing of the rakyat and the nation," Soh pleads. 

The prospect of a complete lockdown made headlines when an internal circular by the European Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) was leaked yesterday. 

"Should the infection rate not decrease, the Malaysian government will announce a shutdown/strict lockdown immediately after Feb 4, 2021. This is the current situation we are facing and MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) 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," it said.

Eurocham said that its chief executive officer Sven Schneider was informed of this in a meeting with MITI. 

However, Eurocham later issued a statement denying that the government had put up such warnings. It said that the informal meeting with MITI which was summarised in the circular highlighted that the "demanding situation" of worker accommodations was brought up numerous times as a key condition to breaking the chain of infections.

"In this context, the demanding situation of worker accommodations has been raised many times and was mentioned in our internal circular, as a crucial contribution in the effort of breaking the chain. Furthermore, Eurocham Malaysia wishes to clarify that while MITI underscored the heightened sense of urgency that currently prevails, given the rising number of cases, there was no mention of an immediate lockdown after Feb 4, 2021, and therefore, we seek for people to remain focused on the bigger picture — in doing their part to ensure that another lockdown is avoided instead," Eurocham explained in the statement.

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