Readymade garment factories that have resumed production will be shut down in case a significant number of workers get infected with Covid-19, Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said.
The decision came at an inter-ministerial meeting on "reopening industries and commerce on a limited scale" held at the health ministry yesterday -- two days after at least ten garment workers were tested Covid-19 positive in Savar industrial belt.
The minister, however, did not make it clear how many infections would make the authorities consider the number significant.
"By strictly maintaining the health rules, garment sector and [other] industries can be resumed. We have to take care of people's livelihood as well as their health," the health minister told journalists in an online briefing following the meeting.
Earlier on April 26, the government announced that it would allow opening the garment factories on a limited scale.
Following the announcement, around 1,000 factories across Savar-Ashulia, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram industrial belts resumed production at a time.
Representatives from different ministries, law enforcement agencies, healthcare organisations, and RMG industry attended the meeting.
Earlier, several important decisions, including the shutdown mechanism for the resumed factories, were finalised at the meeting.
It also decided to form a joint-monitoring committee to monitor the health measures taken by the factories.
Led by the representative from the health ministry, leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitting Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), representatives from industrial police, and Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) will be included in the committee.
The other decisions include keeping Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Gazipur isolated from the rest of the country and limiting the movement of the RMG workers.
It was also decided that the factory owners in coordination with the health ministry would increase Covid-19 testing and quarantine facilities for workers.
The health minister asked the garment factory owners to strictly follow the health safety guidelines as workers are being infected after the reopening of factories.
He suggested that the factory owners build zone-wise coronavirus centres for the workers in the industrial belts.
Noted virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), recently told The Daily Star, "Reopening economic activity is important for us. But we have to maintain health rules for this. Otherwise, reopening may bring another danger."
BGMEA secretary Hatem Ali, following the meeting, said they informed the minister that the factory managements have been running their units following the health protocols prepared by the BGMEA.
The protocols were prepared following the guidelines of the health ministry, World Health Organization and International Labour Organisation, sources said.
BGMEA has multiple audit teams who are making surprise visits to factories to check their health and safety monitoring systems, according to a recent update circulated on the association's website.
The audit teams are headed by the board of directors of BGMEA and the reports are being evaluated every day, it said.
On May 2, 49 factories were audited conditions in 46 factories were found to be satisfactory.
Including them, a total of 196 factories were audited and 190 of them passed muster.
As of yesterday, 11 workers of garment factories were tested positive for Covid-19 in Savar and Ashulia industrial areas, according to Dhaka Industrial Police-1 and Savar health administration.