'Low numbers of infections could be better, but I don't believe the figures and it does not reflect the real scenario as the workers are not getting enough testing opportunities'
Some 187 apparel and textile workers in different factories have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the country since the factories reopened on April 26.
Of the infected workers in the garment sector, 126 are from 51 Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) member factories, 58 from 21 Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) member factories, and three workers from two factories of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).
According to Industrial Police data, in the country's various industrial sectors, 251 workers were infected with coronavirus, of which, 187 are in the apparel and textile sector as of June 1.
On the other hand, 46 workers are from 39 factories located at different Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and 18 workers are from other categories.
Industry officials credited the workers’ resilience, high awareness, and implementation of safety guidelines by the factory owners for containing the infection rate and keeping it low.
“No one has any definite idea about the shape and nature of Covid-19. But looking at the steady level of workers’ presence in the factories, one feels hopeful about our workforce being resilient and more cautious, as the level of awareness in the factories are high and the guidelines being practised are also binding,” Faisal Samad, senior vice president of BGMEA, told Dhaka Tribune.
The standards have been set high and even if the factories follow 80% of the guidelines, they should be fine and can protect the workers, said the business leader.
However, the trade union leaders do not agree with the figures and claim that the actual number is higher, as the real picture is not reflected due to the lack of testing facilities.
“Low numbers of infections could be better, but I don't believe the figures and it does not reflect the real scenario as the workers are not getting enough testing opportunities,” Taslima Akhter, president of Shramik Sanghati Andolon, told Dhaka Tribune.
She thinks that there is a tendency to hide information about the infections among the factory owners, which doesn’t help anyone, and it would certainly not help to stop the spread of the disease, she claimed.
Meanwhile, the BGMEA is going to launch a lab at Chandra in Gazipur to ensure testing for apparel workers. The lab, which has the capacity to test 180 people at a time, is scheduled to be launched on Thursday.
To ensure safety at the workplace, both the BGMEA and the BKMEA are regularly monitoring factories to learn whether they are complying with the health safety guidelines or not.
“We have teams selected for different zones and they monitor to see whether the factories comply with health safety guidelines or not. We also monitor the infected workers to ensure treatment and provide necessary assistance for testing, in case of a suspected case,” Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, a director of BKMEA told Dhaka Tribune.
“But it is quite difficult to say what is the rate or the number of infections. What we can do is take care of them and ensure measures to protect,” he said.
He also urged the government to facilitate antibody-tests, which would help to segregate workers, even people, from the risky ones. It would be good for the industry as the tested people – who already have antibodies – could work in full capacity, said Shamim.