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'Govt should bear Covid-19 screening cost for construction industry'
Published on: Wednesday, May 06, 2020
By: Bernama
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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 COVID-19 screening for all workers thus enabling many workers to commence work on site and get the industry started. 

REHDA Malaysia president Datuk Ir Soam Heng Choon and MBAM secretary-general Eric Yong Shang Ming in a joint statement said at current market rate, the estimated cost per swab test is around RM350 to 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, thus incurring a heavy 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) on March 18, 2020.

"The virus outbreak and its severity is unexpected, and it is beyond the financial capacity of contractors to bear the cost especially when contractors are already financially affected by the pandemic.

"Another area of concern that they hope the government can look immediately into is the capacity and speed of results for the testing of COVID-19 for all construction workers," they said.

They also expressed hope the government could quickly relook into alternatives such as a Rapid Test Kit which is faster, cheaper and readily available in order to accommodate the large volume of workers, with the PCR Swap Test carried out only if there is an outbreak within the site or carried out intermittently and selectively.

In addition, if it is found that the site’s contractor has failed to practise the Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) as per the guidelines issued by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and caused an outbreak of COVID-19 at the site, the contractor shall be responsible for all costs in resolving the outbreak.

Secondly, MBAM strongly echoes REHDA Malaysia’s call made on April 8, 2020 for a Force Majeure Bill or a Legislative Intervention, similar to those that have already been introduced in other countries including Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, the 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," they said.

Essential provisions to include are: to have a retrospective effect from February 2020; and a moratorium (with a defined period) from actions for inability to perform e.g. 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 re-possession actions, and enforcing any judgements, awards and determination," they said.

Another essential provisions is temporary relief for companies and individuals in facing financial difficulties; relief from the happenings or events that have arisen during the MCO; for the property industry, it should cover construction contract and supply contract; any call on performance bond to be prohibited during the moratorium period; and protection for directors from personal liability for any trading carried out during the moratorium period despite their companies being insolvent.

"We  request for the government to table the bill during the upcoming Parliament seating on May 18, 2020 on an urgent basis as this temporary measure is most crucial during this period to effectively protect all stakeholders including developers, builders and purchasers," they added.


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