Saturday, October 16, 2021

Covid secrecy worse for business than covering up outbreaks

Concealing Covid cases is not good PR for companies, say experts.

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In November 2020, thousands of factory workers formed a new Covid-19 cluster, prompting authorities to focus attention on adherence to SOPs in the manufacturing sector.

Some 3,000 out of around 4,000 Covid-19 cases reported in the Teratai cluster were factory workers.

The full extent of the Covid-19 issue came under the spotlight when a whistleblower posted photographs of workers from a factory crowded together rather than physical distancing.

It highlights the need for more transparency and accountability from employers, something experts say is a bane in combating the pandemic.

Migrant worker rights activist Andy Hall said one problem is when the exact location of a new case is not given by the authorities.

He said in many instances, the true identity of a cluster is never made public unless it is leaked to the media.

Hall feels secrecy is a contributing factor to the recent spike because people don’t know where the cases are coming from.

“There is a public interest in knowing where these things are happening. If it wasn’t for whistleblowers, we couldn’t expose these kinds of things.”

“It’s the whole issue of transparency and corporate accountability. We don’t have transparency and we can’t hold the companies accountable either,” he added.

While some companies may think it’s a good idea not to reveal any information about the cases or problems encountered by workers as it protects their corporate image, the consequences can be devastating for communities.

“There is a public interest in knowing where these things are happening. If it wasn’t for whistleblowers, we couldn’t expose these kinds of things,” Hall told MalaysiaNow.

Azrul Mohd Khalib, CEO of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said it is far better for companies to be transparent and open about positive cases on their premises than to try to hide them.

“Being open protects staff and customers. It also sends a positive message on the role that the private sector should play in this epidemic,” he said.

“It is better for them to disclose openly rather than be found out through MySejahtera or other contact tracing efforts.”

Many companies worry about Covid cases stigmatising their reputation.

However, Azrul feels that it is better to be remembered as a business which acted responsibly rather than one which tried to hide information vital to public safety.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan agrees it is important for businesses to maintain transparency about Covid cases on their premises.

“Once an employee is infected with Covid-19 it is important to close the company temporarily so that the workplace can be properly sanitised, and the contacts of the patient must be identified and quarantined and tested.”

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