Hundreds of workers at Katunayake FTZ infected

Hundreds of workers at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) have been infected with the coronavirus but operations are continuing, posing a threat to others, activists said today.

In an email to the media, it was noted that random PCR tests at the FTZ has shown a sharp increase in the number of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 recently.

During the first week of May there were 12 workers who tested positive in one factory and the number rose to 55 workers within a week.

In another factory it was believed that 100 workers were infected.

Following random PCR tests carried out at another factor, 50 workers were found to be infected with COVID-19 and thereafter on the 7th of May the factory was closed and all workers were subject to PCR tests.

The test results were released on the 10th of May showing that 300 workers were infected whilst 150 others continued to work.

In another factory seven workers tested positive but the number later increased to over 100 workers. Activists said that the workers have been made to self-quarantine in their respective hostels.

“Workers are very afraid though, as some co-workers have shown symptoms such as red eyes, fever, cough, and with some fainting whilst at work. The situation is particularly dangerous as there’s nobody of authority to take responsibility for the workers, as most of the human resource personnel are working from home,” activists said.

Workers from some factories fear that if they don’t go to work, those days will be cut from their leave. Many who test positive are also not taken to quarantine centres, and have not been informed of a vaccine plan.

“Workers are also reluctant to stay home, because their wages are cut if they do. So they go to work somehow because they cannot afford to stay home. Particularly if the worker who’s in self quarantine is not from their own factory, workers continue to go to work as usual. When workers test positive and are either made to self-quarantine or sent to centres, not adequate testing is done of their close associates/co-workers,” activists claimed.

Activists also said that as workers at different factories live in shared accommodation, with manpower and daily wage workers, daily wage workers are finding it particularly difficult to make ends meet.

Further, the Government has not implemented welfare provisions for such workers this time around, making them particularly vulnerable.  (Colombo Gazette)

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