Vietnamese workers sleeping in factories as country grapples with Covid surge
By Eric San Juan
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jul 22 (EFE).- Thousands of Vietnamese workers have spent the last two weeks sleeping in the factories where they work to keep production going without breaking local rules on travel, which are in place to contain the country’s worst Covid-19 outbreak to date.
Jordi Borrell, head of production for Spanish company Mibor, which makes parts for shoes, spent two weeks holed up in the factory with six of his workers on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
“They told us that one of the garbage workers who tested positive had been inside the industrial complex and that we either had to close our 130 workshops and go into quarantine or remain inside to keep working,” he told Efe on the telephone.
“I stayed in the factory with six employees,” he added.
Borrell said he had to make the decision within a matter of hours.
After this initial quarantine of two weeks, city officials enforced a lockdown, ordering all non-essential businesses to close up shop, unless workers remained inside the factory to keep working.
In anticipation of this scenario, Borrell equipped the factory with a washing machine, a fridge, a microwave and a barbecue.
“We wanted to make life easier for them because if not they won’t work well. Being in the factory for 24 hours is tiring,” Borrell said, recalling how the noise from neighboring factories made sleep difficult for the first few nights.
A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Borrell and other company officials in a similar predicament praised the willingness of their employees to keep working. All were offered a chance to go home instead.
Another possibility was to rent a house nearby, only leaving to go to work.
“If they had decided not to stay, the company would have temporarily closed, but everyone decided to pitch in. I’m now staying in a nearby house with a colleague, and we have a driver who brings us to work.
“None of the workers wanted to do the same, they felt safer inside the factory,” he added.
While this tactic might work for smaller companies, with around 20 employees, for big firms with thousands on the payroll it is impossible.
Another Spanish businessperson, who spoke to Efe on the condition of anonymity, said that footwear manufacturer Pouchen, which has 56,000 employees in Ho Chi Minh City and supplies to Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lacoste and Under Armour, had to close as it could not meet the government’s Covid regulations.
The future of these large manufacturers in Vietnam depends on whether the government can quickly get a handle on the Covid-19 outbreak, they added, estimating that most big firms could only close for around 15 days “but not much more.”
With little over 70,000 cases and 370 Covid-19 deaths overall, Vietnam remains one of the countries that has best handled the pandemic so far but in recent weeks it has failed to stem what is the biggest outbreak to date.
Although international tourism has been halted, Vietnam managed to maintain economic growth during 2020, largely thanks to its manufacturing power and the trade war between Washington and Beijing, which prompted a number of companies to relocate from China.
However, the country of 97 million people has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the region. Some 4.3 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while only 324,000 have been given a full regimen.EFE