KUALA LUMPUR: The Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Malaysia and Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) are appealing to the government to bear the full cost of the Covid-19 screening for all workers.
At the current market rate, the estimated cost per swab test is between RM350 and RM650 per person, depending on volume. The high cost per person translates to a considerable amount that contractors need to bear, as a construction site typically has hundreds of workers. This will incur a high cost to construction companies, on top of all the other mobilisation costs as well as losses since the start of the movement control order (MCO).
The virus outbreak and its severity are unexpected, and it is beyond the financial capacity of contractors to bear the cost, especially when they are financially affected by the pandemic, according to the press release. Rehda and MBAM also suggested that the government look into the capacity and speed for the testing for all construction workers. Malaysia presently had tested approximately 220,000 people with a capacity of 16,000 to 20,000 tests daily.
With so many workers returning to work at the same time, there will be a rush to do the test. Feedback from a member developer informed that out of his 14 workers sent for testing, only three workers managed to be tested after a five-hour queue, while the other 11 had to wait for a few more days to secure their slot which is still unconfirmed.
News in the media is also going viral on the massive queue of foreign workers seeking for the test at a clinic to the extent of infringing the one-metre social distancing standard of procedure by the Health Ministry. Due to the inability to cope with such high demands, Rehda hopes that the government can quickly relook into alternatives such as the rapid test kit which is faster, cheaper and readily available to accommodate the large volume of workers.
The PCR swab test can be carried out only if there is an outbreak within a site or carried out intermittently and selectively. Secondly, MBAM strongly echoes Rehda Malaysia’s call made on April 8 for a Force Majeure Bill or a Legislative Intervention, similar to those introduced in other countries including Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, United Kingdom (UK Coronavirus Act 2020) and Singapore (Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020).
This bill will statutorily protect all contracting parties from unnecessary litigations and provide temporary relief for businesses and individuals who are unable to meet their contractual obligations during this period which is beyond any parties’ control. Essential provisions to include are:
1/ To have a retrospective effect from February 2020;
2/ A moratorium, with a defined period, from actions for inability to perform, for example, up to the end of the year. This moratorium should also include a bar from commencing and continuing legal proceedings, including enforcing any security, taking any insolvency-related measures or steps, commencing any execution, distress, eviction or repossession actions, and enforcing any judgements, awards and determination;
3/ Temporary relief for companies, and individuals in facing financial difficulties;
4/ Relief from the happenings or events that have arisen during the MCO;
5/ For property industry, it should cover construction contract and supply contract
6/ Any call on performance bond to be prohibited during the moratorium period; and
7/Protection for directors from personal liability for any trading carried out during the moratorium period despite their companies being insolvent.
Rehda and MBAM respectfully request for the government to table the bill during the upcoming Parliament seating on May 18 on an urgent basis as these temporary measures are crucial during this period to protect all stakeholders including developers, builders and purchasers effectively.