After three days of Eid vacation, about 300 apparel factories across the country resumed operations on Wednesday amid a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The apparel makers said they opened the factories with fewer workers than usual to maintain health guidelines which include a 14-day quarantine for workers who went to their village home to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.
AKM Shaheed Reza, an apparel maker, told The Business Standard that he opened his factory at Ashulia with 30 percent of the total workers.
"Those who went to village during Eid vacation will get back to work after 14 days of their return. It is mandatory."
"Slowly, the factory will become fully operational while maintaining strict health guidelines," said the apparel maker.
He is now using a text messaging system to inform the workers about their shifts.
Shaheed Reza, however, expressed concern about future export orders because of the global economic fallouts caused by the pandemic.
The Western buyers either held-up or cancelled export orders worth $3 billion from Bangladesh, making dozens of factories unable to pay off wages and bank instalments.
Some buyers are even bargaining for hefty discounts for the goods that were shipped two months ago.
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, managing director of Chattogram-based apparel exporter Combined Apparels Ltd, will reopen his factory on Thursday, following health guidelines.
"To discourage our workers from going to their village home this year to celebrate Eid, we allowed them only a four-day vacation. Even if some of them went home during this time, he or she will have to maintain a 14-day mandatory quarantine before joining work."
Earlier on April 4, a lot of mismanagement happened when the apparel factory owners brought the first wave of apparel workers during the general holidays – imposed to prevent the spread of the virus.
Thousands of workers were seen coming back to Dhaka and its adjacent areas for work.
Later, the government allowed the apparel makers to resume operations on a limited scale while ensuring health safety measures and standard social distancing at production floors.
According to the industrial police, about 1,800 apparel factories had resumed their operations before Eid vacation with a limited number of workers.
During that time, over 140 workers contracted the novel coronavirus.
Taking these issues into account, two government agencies said they will remain alert to inspect workplaces.
Officials of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) will monitor factories to check if they are maintaining proper health and safety guidelines.
Md Yousuf Ali, the DIFE's deputy inspector general for Gazipur zone, said, "Our 14 teams will monitor the workers' health and safety issues from Wednesday even amid general holidays."
Yousuf Ali also said that the DIFE was facing challenges in monitoring factories due to a manpower shortage.