HCMC wants biggest employer to close over Covid-19 risks

By Huu Cong   April 12, 2020 | 02:42 am PT
HCMC wants biggest employer to close over Covid-19 risks
Employees at Pouyuen Vietnam Co. Ltd leave the company after work on April 8, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
HCMC has asked for prime ministerial permission to suspend operations of footwear maker Pouyuen Vietnam Co. Ltd.,  over Covid-19 safety concerns.

The temporary closure of the Taiwan-invested shoemaker is necessary because it employs almost 70,000 workers working three shifts and uses over 800 vehicles for transportation every day. This means a high risk of Covid-19 infections, said HCMC People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong in a letter to the Prime Minister late Saturday.

If an outbreak occurs at Pouyuen, the consequences will be severe because Covid-19 could very well spread to workers in nearby businesses and HCMC’s four neighbouring provinces of Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre and Tay Ninh.

As such, Pouyuen has been ordered to close from April 13-15, the end of Vietnam’s social distancing campaign, pending the PM’s response, the letter said.

The city had on April 6 inspected Pouyuen’s premises and found that the novel coronavirus infection risk indicator at this company was 81 percent, while municipal regulations stipulate that companies with a Covid-19 infection risk indicator of more than 80 percent must be closed temporarily.

There are 10 metrics used to measure Covid-19 infection risks, including: the number of employees working in the same area at the same time; worker density measured per square meter in factories; the rate of employees washing hands when entering and leaving the company; the rate of employees wearing face masks while working; and the rate of employees having body temperatures checked before entering the company.

"The city acknowledges Pouyuen’s efforts to remedy Covid-19 risk factors, but the municipal Health Department and the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs have both requested that the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee temporarily suspends operations of the company to ensure the absolute safety of workers," the administration told the PM.

On Saturday, the city administration had a working session with Pouyuen, which later implemented several new measures to reduce Covid-19 risk factors at its premises.

This included setting up shields at dining tables in the canteen to avoid direct contact among employees when eating; arranging for employees to work in different shifts to avoid having too many of them gather at the same place at the same time; and checking the body temperature of all people going in and out the company every day, the company said.

HCMC is home to 450,000 companies with 3.8 million employees. The city comes second after Hanoi in the number of Covid-19 cases at 54, of whom 40 have been discharged. Hanoi now has 121 cases and 58 discharges.

Vietnam had 114 active cases after 144 discharges as of Sunday morning.

On Monday, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long suggested Vietnam should extend its social distancing campaign beyond its April 1-15 duration to curb community transmission of the virus.

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