The country’s largest industrial alliance representing over 10,500 companies today dismissed widespread claims that the manufacturing sector is to blame for the bulk of Covid-19 infections.
In a statement, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) cited data from the health ministry showing that the majority of cases, especially this year, have been sporadic infections not linked to clusters.
“While it must be acknowledged that the risk of factory infections cannot be totally eliminated, especially now with the high percentage of sporadic cases and with the virus in the community, this most certainly cannot be equated to a lack of Covid-19 SOP compliance by factories, and is a very unfair conclusion to be made,” FMM president Soh Thian Lai said.
Adding that the manufacturing sector had been a pillar of economic growth, he said the impact of factory closures would be “devastating”.
“As the catalyst of growth contributing around 23% of GDP including 86% of total exports and the main source of demand for output from the other economic sectors, it is very clear that the manufacturing sector must be allowed continue to operate amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Businesses cannot be sustained if factory operations are closed or reduced in capacity, and it will lead to knock-on effects in the economy with significant loss of jobs due to the extensive supply chains and networks involved in manufacturing.”
Adding that the virus could still enter factories through sporadic asymptomatic cases despite the SOPs and preventive measures in place, Soh said these sources of infection are often not traced back to the community where they most likely originated.
Instead, he said, they would be traced back to factories where one community-related infection among the workers leads to the testing of more workers through close contact tracing.
“This in turn is reported as a workplace cluster by the authorities, giving rise to the misconception that workplaces, especially factories, are the primary source of infection.”
He urged the government to close only specific companies where cases of Covid-19 have been detected instead of declaring enhanced movement control order in an entire area.
“Impose strict operation conditions on all businesses, as it is unfair to unaffected companies especially those that have a clean record and have maintained the highest levels of SOP and workplace preventive measures,” he said.
“The importance of the manufacturing sector to Malaysia’s economy must be appreciated by all.”