Covid-19 shutdown: Factories for face masks, sanitisers, gloves can continue operations in Malaysia

Commuters wearing face masks are pictured at the KL Sentral public transportation hub in Kuala Lumpur March 18, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Commuters wearing face masks are pictured at the KL Sentral public transportation hub in Kuala Lumpur March 18, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — The Malaysian government has decided to allow manufacturers of “critical” items such as face masks and hand sanitisers to continue operations during the nationwide two-week shutdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In making the announcement this afternoon, the National Security Council (NSC), however, said that the government’s approval for such factories to continue operations was conditional, with the companies required to operate with a minimal number of workers and with work shifts and to take all precautions against Covid-19.

The NSC listed out the type of products considered as falling under critical manufacturing sectors that would be given conditional approval to operate from today until March 31.

This includes a list of items that the Health Ministry has certified as being important products, including food and beverages including imported items (rice, sugar, vegetable oil and animal fats, flour and cereals, bread, water, dairy products (milk and baby formula), spices, dry food, coffee and tea, canned food, meat, chicken, animal feed, processed fruits and vegetable), and agricultural and fisheries goods including those imported (fish and seafood, fruits, vegetables).

Also included in the list of important goods recognised by the Health Ministry are household products (cleaning agents, disinfectants, sanitisers, personal toiletries, toilet paper and tissues), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including fire safety equipment and medical equipment including face masks, gloves.

The others on the list recognised as important goods by the Health Ministry are pharmaceutical products covering all chemicals and medicines, packaging and printing materials including ink, medical and surgical equipment, and parts for medical tools such as ventilator parts.

Other manufacturers are also allowed to continue operating with a minimal workforce working if they manufacture products that are part of the supply chain of important products, including electrical and electronics such as semiconductors, as well as chemical products such as fertilisers.

Other parts of the supply chain of important products are oil and gas; petrochemicals including polystyrene, PVC paste resins, polypropylene and polyethylene, PTA and PET resins, ABS and MABS resins, expanded EPE, impact modifiers and processing aids, polyester fibres and filament, maleic anhydride, styrene monomer, and styrene butadiene latex.

Conditions for factories to continue operating

The NSC listed the 14 conditions that companies who are allowed to manufacture the above items have to comply with and be subjected to, including reducing the number of workers carrying out manufacturing work to the most minimal level or at least 50 per cent of current numbers and to have non-critical workers work from home.

The companies are also required to fully provide for the demands of the local market, and submit to the International Trade and Industry Ministry a list of workers who are involved and ensure that their movements are limited to only between their residence to the factory or company premises.

The companies also have to record the body temperature of each worker at the factory entry every day and keep these daily records for reference, with the company required to contact the health office or the nearest government department if any worker’s temperature readings exceed the normal temperature.

NSC said all workers have to comply with the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 prevention procedures, while the company is required to prevent hand sanitisers at the entry point and other areas within the factory and ensure all workers wear face masks.

The companies also have to carry out disinfection and sanitisation processes at the factories before each shift begins and on workers’ vehicles each time before use, while sanitisation and cleaning works have to be done three times a day in common spaces such as lobbies, lifts, cafeterias, meeting rooms, surau, close recreation centres, workers’ buses.

NSC said the companies also have to ensure guidelines on best practices for social distancing are complied with at their production floor, cafeteria, meeting room, surau and multipurpose hall.

If their workers get infected with Covid-19, companies have to fully bear the medical cost, and the cost of decontaminating the premises and other related costs.

“The government wishes to stress that this approval can be cancelled and withdrawn, if the conditions fixed are not complied with by the companies or industries,” the NSC said, adding that the government reserves the right to amend any of the conditions depending on the current situation.

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