Malaysia begins screening 1.7 million workers for COVID-19 after factory cases

Medical personnel speaking to Top Glove staff in Klang. Photo: National Security Council Malaysia
Medical personnel speaking to Top Glove staff in Klang. Photo: National Security Council Malaysia

Malaysia begins screening more than 1.7 million foreign workers for COVID-19 today, in the wake of massive spikes in coronavirus infections at the factories of its largest rubber gloves manufacturer. 

Top Glove, which is owned by Malaysian billionaire Lim Wee Chai, reported 4,036 cases as of yesterday, around a week after infections first emerged at its Selangor factories along Jalan Teratai. Eighty percent of those who tested positive were foreign workers who lived in nearby dormitories. Those dormitories, which were accused of providing cramped living conditions, are now under strict lockdown with barbed wires and armed security.  

Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob did not explicitly explain why he was imposing a mandatory COVID-19 screening for the country’s total foreign worker population, but said  during his daily address yesterday that it was “better to test early instead of waiting for the virus to spread.”

The screening is said to take place progressively with the first phase involving 900,000 foreign workers in various parts of Selangor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.

The minister also confirmed yesterday that all but one of Top Glove’s Selangor factories have been temporarily shut. Top Glove has 28 factories in Selangor, where around 13,000 people worked. Its eight other factories were located across Ipoh, Johor, Kelantan, and Negeri Sembilan.

Lim told reporters yesterday that the living conditions at its Jalan Teratai worker dormitories have improved ever since Human Resources Minister Saravanan Murugan visited them a few months ago, saying that the company would “welcome him to visit us again.” 

Murugan had described the state of the dormitories as “terrible” after his August visit. 

Malaysia has recorded 59,817 COVID-19 infections since the outbreak began in February, with 970 new cases yesterday. The death toll stands at 345.

Other stories to check out:

Rubber glove factory shuts temporarily after 1,000+ tested positive for COVID-19

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