The Malaysian Prime minister has announced that Malaysia will relax a 16-month ban on foreign workers owing to the coronavirus, a move spurred by chronic labor shortages, notably in the plantation sector.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the government has approved the Human Resource Ministry’s proposed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for foreign workers entering the country.
The move, according to Ismail, who chairs the Covid-19 Special Committee on Pandemic Management, was made in response to labor shortages, notably in the plantation industry.
Covid-19 SOPs Guidelines
“These SOPs will be implemented in all designated sectors and confirmed on an individual basis by the Foreign Workers Committee, which is co-chaired by the home affairs and human resources ministers.
“The SOPs on the entry of foreign employees into the nation were also authorized today at the Covid-19 Special Committee on Pandemic Management meeting.” Meanwhile, the Joint Meeting of the Ministers of Home Affairs and Human Resources will decide on quotas and dates for foreign employees to enter other job sectors,” Ismail said during an announcement.
The SOPS, among other things, mandates that workers be completely vaccinated in their home countries with vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), with certificates to verify it.
The employees must also undergo a 72-hour RT-PCR test before departing, and they will be quarantined for a period determined by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The required quarantine period is currently seven days. In the Klang Valley, the workers must also perform the quarantine at government-approved facilities.
Thai nationals operating on local fishing vessels, on the other hand, will be able to quarantine at centers close to the entry gates.
On the second and fifth days of their quarantine, the foreign workers must also undergo RT-PCR tests. Those who test positive for the Covid-19 infection and fall into Categories 1 and 2 must be quarantined at a private Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centre (PKRC), while those who test positive for the more serious Categories 3,4 and 5 must be referred to private hospitals.
“The government would like to emphasize the importance of exercising tremendous discipline and responsibility when making these concessions.” The success of the government’s efforts and tactics in getting the country out of this pandemic is not only dependent on them.
“It’s also very much depending on how well the community follows the set SOPs. As a result, Ismail advises, “use a face mask, practice physical distancing, and always take care of your personal hygiene and safety.”
Ismail Sabri also had some positive news for the tourism business. Beginning Nov. 15, fully vaccinated travelers from certain countries will be able to travel to Langkawi Island as part of a three-month pilot program, he said. This scheme, according to the prime minister, is aimed at “high-yield international tourists” from nations on a Malaysian government-approved list.
“This pilot initiative will run for three months to allow the Health Ministry and the National Security Council to assess its viability before it is expanded to other tourism islands and destinations throughout the country,” Ismail Sabri said.
Foreign visitors would be required to be tested for COVID-19 72 hours prior to departure and again upon arrival. Only if the arrival test revealed COVID-19 would they be required to quarantine.
Tourists must also stay for at least three days at their location, use the services of any tourism agency approved by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and have insurance coverage of at least $80,000.
According to one economist, if the tourism program begins, there could be an increase in COVID-19 infections if people do not follow health regulations properly. However, he added, the tourism industry is in desperate need of revitalization.
“It will benefit the tourism industry.” But if COVID-19 figures grow again like they are in the United Kingdom, we will face additional problems in the future,” said Nazari Ismail, an economist at the University of Malaya.
“However, I don’t believe there is much of a choice. People who work in the tourism industry must make a living in order to support their families.”
Malaysia has vaccinated 94.3 percent of its adult population or roughly 72 percent of its total population. In the last two weeks, the number of new infections has remained below 10,000 per day. According to Nazari, the government should implement stricter health protocols to ensure that the benefits of the high number of inoculations are not lost.
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