16 June 2021
The government should prioritise vaccination for workers at all airports nationwide, especially at KLIA, which is the main gateway into the country.
Former transport minister Loke Siew Fook said the government should speed up the immunisation of all transport-related workers to ensure that there is no disruption to the supply chain.
“Airport and port workers should be given priority as they are working in high-risk areas,” he told FMT.
“Of course, the main priority is KLIA but other airports are important too, especially in Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. These are our major cargo hubs.”
Loke said the government should emulate Singapore, which moved fast to vaccinate its aviation and transport sector workers since early this year.
A report by Channel News Asia said the Singaporean government kicked off its vaccination exercise for its aviation and maritime sectors in January, targeting 37,000 frontliners in the two industries.
A media report dated Feb 16 said Singapore’s largest vaccine centre at the time was set up at Changi Airport Terminal 4 in seven days.
A total of 36,500 aviation workers subsequently got their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Loke was commenting on the growing number of calls by the nation’s aviation community to vaccinate its members.
The Malaysia Airports Workers Union (Kesma) had urged the government to prioritise its members in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
Kesma president Hussin Shahar said there had been a steep rise in the number of infections involving KLIA employees as they had not received their jabs despite being constantly exposed to the virus.
Besides passengers, he said, there had been an increase in domestic and foreign cargo movements.
An online petition was also started in change.org by a user under the name “ninermike9M Malaysia”, urging the transport ministry to prioritise the immunisation of aviation industry personnel.
The petition said workers in the industry had not been considered to be among the first to be inoculated when the government rolled out the vaccines. It has garnered close to 3,000 signatures so far.
In response, transport minister Wee Ka Siong said last week that names of eligible vaccine recipients working in the logistics industry had been submitted to the Covid-19 immunisation task force (CITF).
Among those in the list, he said, were aviation and airport employees serving under Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), Malaysia Airlines Bhd, AirAsia, Malindo Air, and ports and seafarers under his ministry.
Wee also acknowledged that workers in the industry need to be vaccinated as soon as possible together with others in the transport industry.
He said that as at June 4, a total of 1,725 (19%) of 9,340 eligible staff members under MAHB and its subsidiaries had been vaccinated.
However, in his statement, Hussin said there were almost 15,000 Kesma members whose lives were at risk working at the main entry points.
He said it was estimated that the family members of these workers numbered around 50,000.
He said many Kesma members from Pos Aviation and other companies had contracted the virus over the past three months as there was no vaccination programme for KLIA Sepang employees.
According to TVNZ, a state-owned broadcaster in New Zealand, two Air New Zealand workers had been placed under self-isolation on June 3 after being potentially exposed to the virus from a Malaysia Airlines freight flight that came into Auckland several days earlier.
New Zealand’s health director-general, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the crew members were taken to a quarantine facility after being found symptomatic upon arrival and tested positive.
The other members of the crew were also transferred to a quarantine facility.
However, the risk of infection involving the Air New Zealand workers was deemed to be low as they were wearing personal protective equipment and there was no physical contact.
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