Burma

Clothing Factories Forced to Close in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Region After COVID-19 Cases

By Salai Thant Zin 25 September 2020

Pathein, Ayeyarwady Region — Ayeyarwady Region’s COVID-19 committee has ordered all garment factories to close for two weeks after four employees tested positive for coronavirus at two factories in the regional capital.

The two factories in Pathein Industrial Zone, one of which has around 700 employees and the other with over 2,000, were found to have four staff who tested positive earlier this week. The committee for prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 led by the regional chief minister, U Hla Moe Aung, has now ordered that all clothing factories close until Oct. 7.

“We inspected after COVID-19 cases were reported in the garment factories. We will have the factories temporarily close to prevent the spread of the virus. All the workers will have to stay at home,” regional industry minister U Win Htay told The Irrawaddy.

The regional government was late in informing the factory owners about the closure order and operations continued on Thursday, said factory managers in Pathein Industrial Zone.

“As the government was late in informing us about the closure, we allowed staff to work today. We will close tomorrow and reopen on Oct. 8,” U Thet Naing, manager of Myanmar Knitting Factory, the biggest garment factory in the industrial zone, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

The regional government will make sure factory employees receive social security benefits during the closure, according to U Aung Nyein, director of the Ayeyarwady Region Directorate of Labor.

“Factories were ordered to suspend operations to prevent the spread of coronavirus. I heard the regional government will report to the social security board headquarters in Naypyitaw for employees to be able to receive social security benefits,” he said.

A 33-year-old woman from one of the factories tested positive for coronavirus last Saturday and the following day two more staff from the same factory and one from another factory tested positive.

The four are at Pathein People’s Hospital and colleagues who came into contact with them and their relatives have been placed in quarantine and tested.

There are 12 clothing factories with investment from China, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Taiwan in Pathein, Kangyidaunt and Dedaye townships in Ayeyarwady Region. The total workforce was previously around 12,000 but COVID-19 has halved the number of jobs available.

In April, all Ayeyarwady garment factories were ordered to close for five days to contain coronavirus.

The region on Thursday morning reported 148 COVID-19 patients, with 21 of 26 townships reporting cases.

Most of the cases were reported in Pathein, followed by Pyapon and Maubin. Twenty-eight patients have recovered and 120 others are still receiving hospital treatment.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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