Myanmar Reopens Yangon Factories to Protect Foreign Investment
By Zaw Zaw Htwe 14 October 2020
Yangon – Although the spread of COVID-19 in Yangon is not under control, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports has allowed the city’s garment factories to reopen amid fears of a loss in foreign investment.
Yangon’s clothing factories were initially ordered to cease operations until Oct. 21 to curb the spread of the virus.
State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in a televised speech on Monday evening that the authorities are working to allow the resumption of factory operations for the long-term health of the country’s economy.
She said foreign investors may stay away if orders are not met for long periods.
“The loss of investments will damage our economy and the livelihood of our workers in the long term,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
“That is why I hope factories and workplaces can reopen as soon as possible.”
The health ministry said on Saturday that allowing operations would prevent employees from losing their jobs and sustain economic growth.
On Tuesday noon, about 400 Yangon factories, including drinking water suppliers and cold storages, were allowed to resume operations, said Daw Moe Moe Su Kyi, the regional minister for immigration and human resources.
Myanmar has more than 7,000 factories, 6,632 of which are in Yangon along with 680,000 workers, according to the Ministry of Labor.
Daw Moe Moe Su Kyi told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that they have allowed factories to operate after passing tests for COVID-19 preventative measures.
Other factories are also allowed to resume operations after taking some minor coronavirus measures.
With more than 7 million inhabitants, Yangon is the country’s COVID-19 center, reporting between 1,000 and 1,900 cases per day over the past week.
On Tuesday evening, Yangon reported more than 23,600 COVID-19 cases, followed by Rakhine State with more than 2,100 cases.
The health authorities in Yangon Region revealed on Sunday that they have yet to bring the spread of transmissions in the city under control.
Initially, the health ministry ordered all garment factories in Yangon to cease operations from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7 but then extended the closures until Oct. 21 as COVID-19 cases rose.
Factory owners complained, saying they faced canceled orders due to the long-term lockdowns.
The health ministry said the factories must meet COVID-19 preventative guidelines if they want to reopen.
On Saturday, the ministry issued a statement ordering factory owners to introduce COVID-19 preventative measures.
All factories are instructed to set up temperature checks and to turn away any workers with a fever.
They must arrange enough supplies for workers to wash their hands and arrange physical distancing to avoid crowding.
The ministry instructed factories to use pamphlets or an intercom to communicate with workers to avoid meetings to share information about COVID-19.
Factory workers have been told to avoid crowded areas and report to their nearest health clinic if they feel any symptoms associated with COVID-19, including coughing, difficulty breathing, fever and weakness.
Factories which pass coronavirus preventative measure tests set by the Yangon regional government will be allowed to resume operations immediately, according to the ministry.
Ma Khaing Zar Aung of the central executive committee of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday workers were reporting that factories were reopening without meeting the COVID-19 guidelines.
“It could lead to an outbreak of the virus if factories are asking workers to work without having proper COVID-19 preventative measures,” said Ma Khaing Zar Aung.
Since Aug. 16, Myanmar has reported 30,063 COVID-19 cases and 687 fatalities, compared with 374 cases and six deaths from March 23 to Aug. 16.
On Wednesday morning, Myanmar reported 30,437 COVID-19, cases, including693 deaths and 11,769 recoveries.
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