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COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has sought to reassure the country’s garment workers about safety in factories after the government exempted apparel makers from a ten-day national lockdown. The JAAF said it is “doing everything in its power to address [worker] concerns by working in close consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other public authorities, in order to ensure all possible measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of employees.”

Like other garment exporting country’s, Sri Lanka is currently balancing the needs of an economy which is heavily dependent on income from garment exports with concerns over Covid-19 risk.

Those concerns have grown in Sri Lanka over the increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 due to the Delta variant. However, the JAAF said 90 per cent of garment workers have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and over 50 per cent have received their second.

JAAF also said that in line with established protocols by the MOH and the Ministry of Labour, factories carry out checks at all facilities.

In a statement JAAF said: “Workers are screened for any symptoms before they are allowed to enter factory premises. Factories ensure social distancing and have dedicated areas for people to eat, toilet facilities etc. Several plants also offer additional measures such as steam inhalations, sanitization stations, herbal and other healthy hot drinks etc.

“Anyone with any visible symptom is moved to a medical facility immediately for more in-depth testing. Temperature checks are also conducted randomly and frequently during the day on shop floors, and appropriate action is taken if necessary.”

JAAF said garment manufacturing plants adhere to testing protocols issued by the Ministry of Health, which includes random testing and daily reporting to the MOH of these results. These are also discussed and shared with the local health authorities through an online mechanism that has been set up. Further, local health authorities are in close contact with plants to help ensure that the workplace is as safe as practically possible.

“We appreciate their determination and commitment to putting the economy back on its feet at this difficult time. For our part, we will do everything in our power to ensure they stay safe and protected, by pandemic-proofing workspaces, making sure they are all vaccinated completely and that the protective measures and healthcare infrastructure is available to them and their families,” said secretary general of JAAF, Tuli Cooray.

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