Covid-19 enters textile factories

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Bereng Mpaki

ONE Precious Garments factory employee has tested positive for Coronavirus (Covid-19), the Ministry of Labour and Employment has said.

Discovered last Wednesday, the infection has raised concerns on the safety of workers in the textile industry. The industry employs about 50 000 people, who often work in congested spaces.

‘Mamolise Falatsa, the public relations officer at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said they have since instructed the factory to tighten its safety precautions including fumigating the work area and introducing smaller shifts to minimise the spread of the virus.

She said other employees who have come into contact with the patient have also been isolated and tested for Covid-19. They are now awaiting their results.

“The Ministry of Labour and Employment is aware of a worker who tested positive for Covid-19 at Precious Garments following its inspection of the factory,” Ms Falatsa said.

“With the assistance of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry conducted contact tracing to determine other workers who may have been in contact with the Covid-19 patient. The identified contacts were then isolated and tested.

“The ministry has also instructed the firm to fumigate the factory surfaces to minimise the spread of the virus to other workers. We have impressed upon the management to introduce small working shifts to reduce the number of workers who are at the premises at any given time. This advice has been given to the factory ahead of the new Covid-19 regulations which now make it mandatory to implement such shifts.”

She said the ministry would soon go back to inspect the factory to ensure that the company has implemented its directives.

Meanwhile, in his Saturday address, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro announced that factories should introduce night shifts to reduce the number of workers at their premises at any given time.

Dr Majoro said the crowding of people for extended periods would easily spread the virus. His sentiments are reflected in the latest Covid-19 regulations dated 20 July 2020.

Tšepang Makakole, the deputy secretary general of National Union of Clothing and Textile Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), accused factory operators of ignoring safety precautions in the workplace.

“I am yet to confirm the Precious Garments’ issue but we have generally observed that many factories are not abiding by the Covid-19 safety precautions. A lot still needs to be done to ensure the safety of workers in the workplace,” Mr Makakole said.

One of the workers at the factory said they were all shocked when their colleague tested positive for Covid-19.

“We are scared but we must be strong for the sake of our jobs… We now know that the virus is a reality and we should continue observing safety precautions.”

The employee said nine other workers who have come into contact with the infected person have been tested and are in a 14-day quarantine.

Contacted for comment, the management of the factory said it would release a statement after consulting with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The statement was yet to be released by the time of print.

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