Factories, particularly the ready-made garment (RMG) ones, is being blamed for spreading COVID-19 by violating laid down health rules, experts and garment factory sources said.
A report of Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Solidarity (BGWS) said around 100 readymade garment workers have been infected with COVID-19 last month and 10 of them died or with its symptoms. The data was compiled from various reports published by various media, including 25 newspapers, from April 9 to May 7.However, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) refuted the data, terming it as ‘baseless’. In a statement, the organization claimed that only 0.16 per cent of the total nationwide infected people were RMG workers.
Talking to the daily sun, Taslima Akhter, president of the BGWS said they are collecting information about the number of cases of coronavirus cases among the garment workers.
“The garments workers are being infected with cronavirus regularly and the number has been increasing day by day which his being published in media reports. The situation is visible by reports from some areas, particularly Savar and Narayanganj,” she said.
Taslima Akhter said excepting few, most of the garment factories are not maintaining hygiene properly for the workers in their factories while the workers are also not maintaining social distance inside and outside workplaces which is causing the rise of infection.
She demanded that the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reveal the number of infected garment workers and to ensure health safety measures for the all workers and arrange their isolation and treatment immediately.
"The infection can increase because shops and readymade garment factories have reopened. We have to consider both life and livelihoods. The health ministry will do everything possible to stop the rise of new cases,” health and family welfare minister Zahid Maleque said at a press briefing after a meeting of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Coronavirus at the health ministry on April 5.According to a report of the DGHS, the maximum coronavirus infection cases have been detected in Dhaka city, Narayanganj and Gazipur districts. Some 7,275 coronavirus infected cases have been detected in Dhaka city, 1243 in Narayanganj district and 338 in Gazipur district till May 11.
Health experts and garments sources said the garment workers are being infected with coronavirus as the workers are not maintaining social distance and the factories are also not complying with the laid down health ruls.
Some garment workers said a few garment factories have arranged only hand washing but social distance and total disinfection facility is not yet available.
They said the factory authorities are also not ensuring treatment, isolation and quarantine facilities for the workers, while a large number of workers are working risking their lives.
Talking to the daily sun about reason behind increasing the number of corona infection cases in the country, Dr. Shahnila Ferdousi, Director (Disease Control) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said “The number of coronavirus infection cases has been increasing as social distancing and hygiene are not being maintained by the people.”
Prof Dr Saif Ullah Munshi, Chairman of Department of Virology of the BSMMU said “Garment factories, shops are reopening … people are moving randomly without maintaining social distance, while enforcement of health rules have also slackened.”
Sources said the number of novel coronavirus-infected patients in Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar area has been increasing daily after lockdown restrictions were eased and garments factories reopened.
Workers at some garment factories in the industrial areas of Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar said the only hand-washing at the entrance is available, but no physical distancing measures had been enforced inside many factories.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Solidarity (BGWS) said 79 percent of the infected are workers of factories in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj districts while a highest of 26 cases has been reported in Narayanganj, followed by 24 in Savar and 14 in Gazipur.
The organization also demanded quick disclosure of information regarding infected and deceased workers and disinfection measures at factories including those in Savar and Ashulia, where workers were found infected.
It also urged the authorities to ensure the treatment of infected garment workers and to give their treat costs.
Talking to the daily sun, Rumana Ahmed, a well-known owner of a buying house, said “The garment factories should ensure health safety for workers. If the workers are infected then they cannot give quality production which will affect the RMG sector. The garment factories authorities should ensure social distance, hygiene and wearing mask for the workers.”
According to the BGMEA website, it has multiple audit teams going for surprise factory visits and health and safety monitoring system. The audit teams are headed by six board of directors of BGMEA and the reports are evaluated every day.
On 11 May, 47 more factoires were audited where conditions of 46 factories were found satisfactory. Including this, a total of 508 factories were audited and situation in 493 factories were found satisfactory. The other 15 factories which required improvements were suggested immediate corrective action plan to resume operations.