These include key amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act to rule in immediate closure for businesses that don't comply with SOPs, information on the nationwide COVID-19 immunisation programme, and more.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has clarified a few points on the country's ongoing state of emergency, and the Emergency Ordinance (Essential Powers) 2021 which was gazetted on 14 January.
In a statement on Thursday (4 February 2021) the Prime Minister noted that while a total lockdown would be "one of the most effective" ways to break the chain of COVID-19 infection in Malaysia, it will indeed have a "very negative impact" on the nation's economy and on the lives of people.
"At the same time, if the movement of the people is not controlled, we will not be able to break the chain of COVID-19 infection. Cases will continue to increase, hospitals in our country will not be able to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of new cases, our public health system will be paralysed, and the lives of the people will be threatened. This is also a situation we must avoid.
"So, in the current pandemic situation, the Government needs to find a balanced method, which is to ensure that the economic life of the people continues to be guaranteed and the lives of the people continue to be protected.
"The best method at the moment is to allow essential economic sectors to continue operating and at the same time implement strict SOPs to break the chain of infection COVID-19 that is already in the workplace, in the residential area and in our community."
In line with this, PM Muhyiddin highlighted the following:
Employers have been instructed that only 30% of employees in the management category can attend office or business premises, while others must work from home. When these instructions are followed, at least 70% of employees in this category are not in offices or on business premises. They are required to stay at home.
Similarly, if any of the employees are found to be positive for COVID-19, they must be immediately isolated and reported to the Ministry of Health Malaysia for treatment or quarantine at home. Detection of close contact among employees must also be done immediately. They must undergo a COVID-19 screening test and be quarantined at home/their place of residence.
Employers should not force employees who are undergoing quarantine to come to work as this will endanger everyone. Infections of others can occur if they are also found to be positive for COVID-19.
The PM also emphasised the need for SOP compliance in factories, on construction sites, in employee accommodation and in the workplace. "This is because the COVID-19 infection in this third wave is common in these places. The latest data shows that 59% of COVID-19 infections occur in the workplace, 19% in detention centers, 14% in homes, 5% in synagogues or religious activities and 2% as imported cases and risk groups respectively."
Further, he added, following recent inspections at 2.276 factories and non-factory premises, a total of 197 premises were singled out and 34 were ordered to close for non-compliance with the prescribed SOPs. The Police have also imposed a compound on 82,141 individuals and made 31,740 arrests for various offences.
The PM went on to explain actions and rules put in place for this period, with extracts below.
Actions taken following the Emergency proclamation on 12 January 2021
Amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 [Act 342]
The Emergency Management Technical Committee has examined the provisions in the Act that need to be amended to enable more stringent and prompt enforcement action to be taken. Among them are:
- Immediate closure instructions for business premises that do not comply with the rules and SOPs set by the Government;
- Legal action against business owners, franchisees, franchise operators and other stakeholders in the business organisation chain;
- Legal action against the foreign worker management chain including employers, supplier suppliers, key contractors, sub-contractors and individuals;
- Higher compound action against repeat offenders or offenders who have been warned;
- Imprisonment of offenders in violation of rules and SOPs; and
- Disciplinary action against Civil Servants who do not comply with the rules and SOPs including to the Head of Department regarding the implementation of the work-from-home policy.
Reinforcement of Act 446 - Minimum Standards on Housing, Accommodation and Employee Facilities Act 1990 [Act 446]
Overcrowded and non-standard accommodation of foreign workers is one of the main causes of COVID-19 transmission among workers in the country. In fact, as of 3 February 2021, the manufacturing sector recorded the highest number of COVID-19 clusters (128), followed by the construction sector with 82 clusters and the services sector with 61 clusters.
Through the powers given to the Government under the Emergency Proclamation, the Government is in the process of amending the Minimum Standards for Housing, Accommodation and Facilities of Employees Act 1990 or Act 446 for the purpose of addressing housing management issues through stricter enforcement action.
Among them is obligating employers to:
- Provide accommodation that meets the set standards;
- Bear the cost of accommodation, relocation and employee health screening costs;
- Implement monitoring measures on foreign workers while working on the premises and after working hours at the residence; and
- Ensure that employee accommodation centre agents provide employee accommodation that meets the requirements and standards of public health set by the government.
The Human Resources Ministry will lead the Employee Accommodation Management Task Force, which will have greater and comprehensive jurisdiction through the amendment of the Act.
Enhancing enforcement capabilities
To further enhance the capacity of government enforcement action in the fight against COVID-19, the PM has issued a directive under the Emergency Ordinance (Essential Powers) 2021 to delegate police power to the Malaysian Armed Forces to make arrests, inspections and seizures while assisting other agencies in performing PATI prevention duties and COVID-19 prevention operations.
"I have also instructed RELA members numbering over three million people nationwide to assist in SOP enforcement tasks at business premises and public places. In addition, the Government will also implement a Community Empowerment Programme that will involve local community leaders in the COVID-19 prevention campaign at the community level."
Nationality COVID-19 Immunisation Programme
The Government has successfully ordered the COVID-19 vaccine, with the first delivery of this vaccine supply scheduled to arrive in February. The first delivery involves vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech which have shown a high effectiveness rate of 95%, the PM highlighted.
Following this, the Government will start the roll-out of the programme from the end of February, and aims to have 80% of the country's population (or 26.5mn individuals) receive this vaccine which will be given free of charge to Malaysians.
This immunisation programme will involve three phases. The first phase will involve a total of 500,000 frontline staff comprising health and non-health personnel. PM Muhyiddin said: "This phase is crucial to protecting our frontliners who are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase of this immunisation programme is scheduled to end in April."
The second phase will involve high-risk groups, i.e. the elderly and vulnerable people aged 60 and above, who suffer from issues such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. People with disabilities (OKU) are also included in this phase. An estimated 9.4mn people will receive the vaccine under this second phase, which will run from April to August 2021.
In the third phase, the remaining vaccine recipients will be adults aged 18 years and above, starting from May 2021 to February 2022. "This phase is important to form group protection or herd immunity and further control this pandemic overall."
The Government welcomes the participation of volunteers, students, community leaders, religious leaders, non-governmental organisations, the Red Crescent Society, St. John's Ambulance, the private sector and the people of Malaysia as a whole, PM Muhyiddin added.
Further information on the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, including registration procedures, vaccination center location and other relevant information will be announced shortly.
Click here for PM Muhyiddin's full statement on the Emergency Proclamation and Emergency Ordinance (Essential Powers) 2021.
Photo / 123RF