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Global Garment-making Hub Bangladesh Opens Factories Amid Covid Battle; Weighs Costs

Hundreds of garment factories in Bangladesh have resumed working since Sunday amid a nationwide lockdown as the crippled sector sought to cover the losses.


Hundreds of garment factories in Bangladesh employing thousands of workers have resumed working amid a nationwide lockdown as the crippled sector sought to stem losses, endangering the drive to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Operations resume despite lockdown

Factories in the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong reopened on Monday after being permitted to resume work. The country's garment factories had closed in late March but under pressure from retailers to fulfil outstanding export orders, many resumed their operations, despite a nationwide lockdown in place until May 5, ANI reported. The mills in the country were closed on March 26 but the factories are calling back workers living close to the units. 

Garment forms 80% of the country's total annual exports, and the country is expected to lose export revenue of about USD 6 billion this fiscal year as the sector has been hit by cancellations from some of the world's largest brands and retailers. More than four million people work in thousands of garment factories across Bangladesh, which last year shipped apparel worth USD 35 billion to some of the world's leading retailers, such as H&M, Inditex and Walmart.

A segment of the garment factories affiliated with the Readymade Garment Industry (RMG) entrepreneurs' lobbies resumed operations on a limited scale, bdnews reported. The Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BGMEA) has set a 30% attendance target for the factories opening on Sunday while the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) asked its members to open knitting, dyeing and sample sections, which will also require at least 30% attendance.

'Everything is being done slowly'

Asked about the number of factories that reopened on Sunday, BGMEA Vice President Faisal Samad told, "We are not doing anything in a hurry; everything is being done slowly. On the first day, about two hundred factories in and around Dhaka have made preparations to restart work with a small number of workers. The factories will fully reopen from May 2," said BKMEA Vice President Mohammad Hatem, adding, "Workers who are living far away have been barred from attending work at the moment."

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There are nearly 4.1 million garment workers in the country. On Sunday, hundreds of textile workers took to the streets of Dhaka, demanding wage, flouting social distancing norms amid the nationwide lockdown. Garment workers have held smaller protests in recent weeks to demand wages lost during the crisis. A nationwide lockdown is in place until May 5, but protesters said they would continue to violate the ban on movement if their demands were not met.

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(With agency inputs)

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