Bangladesh factories resume work, risking new virus cases

/ 06:41 PM May 01, 2020

In this April 19, 2018 file photo, trainees work at Snowtex garment factory in Dhamrai, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh is gradually reopening its hundreds of garment factories after nearly one month of closure following a government decision for a nationwide lockdown amid concern that coronavirus could spread widely among the industry’s millions of workers, an industry leader said Tuesday. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, File)

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has reopened hundreds of its garment factories this week after nearly one month of closures to fight the coronavirus pandemic in a move critics say risks igniting a sharp increase in infections among workers.

An industry group said about 850 factories are operating with fewer workers than usual and following safety guidelines. Labor advocates said not enough is being done to ensure safety for the 4 million workers in Bangladesh’s roughly 4,000 garment factories.


The number of factories that have reopened is in dispute. Activists and analysts said Friday about 2,000 garment factories have restarted production.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said only 850 factories had opened by Thursday, using a limited number of workers who live nearby.


“The global brands are happy to see the factories opening up as otherwise a whole season would have been lost,” Mohammad Abdur Razzak, secretary of the industry group, said in an email.

Razzak said the factories were complying with health guidelines and that inspections found that only four of 105 visited were not meeting standards.

As is true elsewhere, workers and their employers were torn between suffering still more loss of income by staying closed and risking a surge in infections if they stop taking precautions too soon.

The resumption of manufacturing followed a government decision to allow companies to reopen that was made under heavy pressure from businesses. Factories went ahead, fearing they might lose business to competitors in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, and India.

A senior government health official in a major industrial zone near Dhaka urged factories to close down again.

Bangladesh has confirmed 7,667 people infected with coronavirus and 168 deaths since its first case was reported on March 8. About 500 new cases were being confirmed daily in the nation of 160 million people, which has only 25 testing facilities and a fragile healthcare system.

Thousands of workers reportedly were rushing back to reclaim their jobs in the capital, Dhaka and nearby industrial districts, alarming labor advocates.


“Who will take the responsibility if hundreds of workers become ill?” said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity.

Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of the local think tank Policy Research Institute, said at least another week should have been allowed to better prepare for reopening.

“The factories have resumed operations without giving it much thought,” he said. “There is a huge risk of virus transmission among workers.”

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: 2019-nCoV, Bangladesh, China, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Economy, factory, Health, International news, NcoV, nCoV update, news, novel coronavirus, Outbreak, pandemic, Virus, work, world, world news, Wuhan
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.