The Bangladesh government has allowed export-oriented factories to resume production on Aug 1 amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
The Cabinet Division announced the decision on Friday after factory owners urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to allow factories to reopen by easing the restrictions set on industries, including the garment sector, reports bdnews24.com.
They say that prolonged closures risk losing their share of the international market, breakdowns of supply chains, congestion at ports and will have an overall effect on the economy.
It was unclear how the workers would return to work from home villages or towns, where they had gone to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha and spend the lockdown with their relatives. The restrictions on public transportation, including long-haul bus services, will be in place until at least Aug 5.
In the first round of coronavirus lockdown last year, thousands of workers walked over 100 kilometres or travelled in crammed goods transports to return to work after confusion arose over whether the factories can remain open.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan led a delegation of BGMEA, BKMEA, BTMEA, Dhaka Chamber and FBCCI in a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam with the request on Thursday.
The government had allowed factories to remain open during previous lockdowns but ordered them closed in the lockdown reimposed on Jul 23. But factories involved in the processing of rawhide from Eid sacrificial animals, food products, COVID-19 prevention products and pharmaceuticals were exempted from these restrictions.
Owners in the readymade garment industry, concerned about the timely delivery of exports during a busy season, called for these lockdown rules to be relaxed as the government continued to refuse their requests.
“Our request bears in mind the coronavirus situation, the number of new cases and deaths. We hope the government takes this into consideration. We aren’t just representing the garment sector, but all industries. Many things are involved in the industry and so we have requested that it be exempted from lockdown and that our request is considered,” BGMEA President Faruque said.
FBCCI President Jashim Uddin said that the food, hide and pharmaceutical sectors were also experiencing a supply chain crisis despite being allowed to stay open.
“The food industry needs wrapping and cartons. In such circumstances, industries cannot stay closed.”
Faruque said: “In addition to exports there are many imported goods at the ports. The ships are unloading but there isn’t space at the port to keep the cargo. If factories are not reopened the containers at the ports will not be released and cause difficulties further down the line.”
“When workers are at the factory, they feel safe receiving the vaccine. But when they go to their home villages, they no longer want to take them. If workers stay in the villages, they will not have access to doctors, medicine or hospitals near them. They will if they stay near the factories. We can also provide security to our workers.”