Factories in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Region to Close Ahead of COVID-19 Checks

By Salai Thant Zin 22 April 2020

Pathein, Ayeyarwady Region — All the garment factories in Pathein Industrial Zone will be closed until April 25, following the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population’s instruction that factories will await COVID-19 inspections.

“We have ordered factories to close temporarily. They will only be allowed to open after inspection if they meet the requirements set by the ministry,” said U Aung Nyein, the deputy director of Ayeyarwady Region Department of Labor.

The health and labor ministries say they will inspect factories to assess whether they have adopted measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

There are eight garment factories operated by Chinese, South Korean and Sir Lankan investors in Pathein, employing over 8,000 people.

Factories in Pathein were closed from April 12-19 for the Thingyan New Year and they were due to resume operations on April 20.

But the Ministry of Labor announced on Sunday that factories would only be permitted to reopen after complying with the Ministry of Health and Sports’ COVID-19 preventive measures.

Many workers went to their factories in Pathein on Monday, some of which operated for the day.

“We have presented our plans for inspection of factories to the region chief minister. We will start inspection this week,” said U Aung Nyein.

Some workers have returned home while others from more distant townships have stayed in Pathein.

“Our employer informed us on April 19 that the factory will be closed until April 28. But other factories could not inform their employees in time and they went to work on April 20,” said Ma Ei Mon Soe, the chairwoman of a trade union at the Amava Apparel garment factory.

U Thet Naing, the manager of Myanmar Knitting, said his factory is adopting the ministry’s COVID-19 measures.

“Since the first COVID-19 cases were reported, we asked employees to keep six feet apart when they queue to enter the compound. We asked them to wash their hands and we have distributed masks. Now we are arranging more washbasins and working to impose safe distance rules at work stations and in the canteen,” said U Thet Naing.

Seven garment factories in Pathein Industrial Zone will reportedly resume operations on April 26 and Sri Lanka’s Amava Apparel will reopen on April 29.

A Chinese interpreter and two staff members of the garment factories were sent to Pathein Hospital on April 15 with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. The three tested negative.

By Wednesday morning, there were 121 COVID-19 cases in Myanmar, including five deaths and nine recoveries.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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