More than a thousand garment factories reopened yesterday amid coronavirus fears with many workers finding it difficult to reach workplaces for a lack of transport.
Some of them said they had to pay two to three times the usual fare.
Of the 7,602 apparel factories across the country, 2,916 resumed operation as of yesterday after remaining closed for around two weeks till April 26, according to the Industrial Police.
So far, 460 factories have reopened in Dhaka, 1,518 in Gazipur, 548 in Chattogram, 225 in Narayanganj, 79 in Mymensingh and 86 in Khulna, Mohammad Amzad Hossain, superintendent of police of the Industrial Police, told The Daily Star.
Talking to this newspaper, a number of workers said they struggled to get vehicles to reach workplaces from their houses as no public transport was available amid the countrywide shutdown.
A number of workers in Narayanganj said they were left with no choice but to pay two to three times the usual fare, reports our Narayanganj correspondent.
Wearing masks and disposable caps, thousands of workers yesterday joined work at garment factories in the industrial belts in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, Chattogram and Narsingdi.
The authorities of the factories arranged hand-washing facilities, masks, and disposable caps for the workers and also checked their body temperature as a precaution against the virus, said a number of workers.
Our Savar correspondent reports that many of the small factories in the industrial belt were yet to make preparations to resume operation.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation urged the government to take action to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace with active involvement and dialogue with the employers and the workers.
To minimise the risk of Covid-19 exposure for workers, all employers need to carry out risk assessments and ensure that their workplaces meet strict occupational and health safety standards, the ILO said in a statement yesterday.
Many of the big factories in Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram found it difficult to ensure social distancing at workplaces as they employ a large number of workers.
In Chattogram, a number of garment workers alleged that their employers did not provide them with adequate hand sanitizer, soap and disposable gloves. Besides, the factory authorities had been lax in ensuring social distancing at workplaces.
In a statement, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said they conducted surprise inspections of 27 factories yesterday, covering all the industrial belts in the country.
"It is a continuous process, and it will be done every day in all the zones
"We found 25 of the factories in a very good condition in terms of health safety. One factory needs improvement while we were not satisfied with one.
"We asked it to show improvement immediately otherwise the authorities concerned will be notified of it," the BGMEA mentioned.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said garment workers would not be allowed to enter the capital from outside as apparel factories would run on a limited scale with workers now staying in the city, reports UNB.
"Garment workers who are now in Dhaka can join work at factories… no one from outside will be allowed to come to Dhaka for work. Necessary steps have been taken in this regard," he told reporters after a meeting with garment factory owners at the Secretariat.
Leaders of the BGMEA and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) attended it.
The minister said the owners had told the meeting that they are running factories on a limited scale with workers staying in Dhaka and also maintaining hygiene at workplaces.