Datuk Sim Kiang Chiok

KUCHING: The Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) is appealing to the government to immediately appoint more Covid-19 test laboratories to screen foreign workers throughout the state.

It proposed that the state government consider entrusting the task of screening foreign workers to private clinics and hospitals. 

The association also proposed that the government consider testing all foreign construction workers using Rapid Test Kit method as an alternate ideal approach prior to working after the expiry of the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

In a statement issued yesterday, Sheda complimented the state government for setting up the Sarawak Economic Action Council to facilitate Sarawak’s post Covid-19 exit economic strategy up to 2030.

It said the initiative was a light at the end of the dark tunnel, instilling confidence and leading the people to walk along a clear path towards economic recovery.

Sheda said it also supported adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the National Security Council (NSC) and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

These SOPs are instrumental in ensuring workers’ safety and to deter Covid-19 transmission at construction sites and surrounding areas.

However, it expressed concern over the mandatory requirements that all foreign site workers must undergo Covid-19 screening and to be certified free of the virus before being allowed to start working.

“There are thousands of foreign construction workers and probably tens of thousands if we include foreign factory workers returning to work and they will be rushing to the one-and-only private Covid-19 test laboratory in Kuching appointed by Socso (Social Security Organisation).

According to Sheda, one of its associate had called up the test laboratory and was informed that there were already 12,000 workers in Kuching alone registered in the queue.

“Worst still, the incapacitated test laboratory has apparently run out of test kits and the replenishments would only arrive weeks later if not months.

“With all RT-PCR tests currently being conducted only in a centralised laboratory in KL, it is anticipated that test results will only be available within four and seven working days after test samples are collected if no changes are made to improve on the local laboratory testing capacity.”

Sheda said a more realistic and pragmatic approach would probably be to reinforce screening of workers at their work sites.