Bangladesh is to enter a week-long lockdown starting today (14 April), but garment-producing factories will be exempt from closure under government direction – a move one business owner says will bring much needed relief to the already fragile apparel sector, presently undergoing a “critical moment” in its recovery.
According to the John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, Bangladesh reported 6,028 new cases of Covid-19 on 13 April and is averaging 6,619 cases on a seven-day basis.
The country has now imposed a week-long ban on all international and domestic flights. The government is also requiring people to stay at home. All non-essential shops including malls will be closed. At short notice, local authorities may lockdown buildings, streets and areas in order to control the spread of coronavirus.
But the government has taken the decision to allow garment-producing factories to remain open.
The South Asian country is the largest exporter of jeans to the EU and the UK. In 2020 it was the largest overseas supplier of denim to the US by value, according to US trade data.
The owner of a jeans manufacturer in the country, Mostafiz Uddin, urged western governments to reopen their non-essential stores last month, adding ongoing lockdowns were “killing” the readymade-garment (RMG) industry.
Uddin implored them to consider the impact the action is having on the millions of workers in their supply chain.
He also advised leaders in Bangladesh not to close RMG factories during its lockdown, adding factory owners had invested heavily to ensure workers are safe.
Speaking to just-style today (14 April), Uddin said he was 100% in favour of the decision by the government to allow factories to remain open.
“During the last heavy lockdown, many factories were prevented from completing critical orders. This has happened time and again these past 12 months, destroying confidence with customers – many of whom may never return if they start to believe we are in a perpetual state of closing down and opening up. This is doing untold damage to our reputation as a garment hub.”
He also said the RMG industry in Bangladesh has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to create safe working environments since the pandemic began with temperatures taken twice a day for factory workers. Symptomatic staff are immediately tested and isolated.
“Our government has compromised and I am pleased about that, I believe it has taken the right decision. By all means, introduce curfews and movement restrictions on the private lives of individuals – these are sacrifices we are all happy to make for the national good.
“But in the meantime, let’s please keep the wheels of our proud RMG industry turning so that when we do come out of this pandemic, we will be ready to hit the ground running.”