Da Nang factories’ dilemma: Keep business going and workers safe

By Hoang Phuong   August 6, 2020 | 09:30 pm GMT+7
Da Nang factories’ dilemma: Keep business going and workers safe
A worker of a factory inside Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in Da Nang has her body temperature checked, August 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Phuong.

Factories in Da Nang are struggling amid the fresh Covid-19 outbreak to both keep production going and ensure employees’ safety.

On July 16 a woman working at the Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in Da Nang’s Lien Chieu District started going to Da Nang Hospital, the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in Vietnam so far, to take care of her ill mother.

In the daytime she continued to work at a Japanese factory inside the industrial park, around 10 kilometers from the hospital.

Ten days later she developed fever and throat pain but continued to work. On July 29 the 39-year-old woman was diagnosed with Covid-19, becoming "patient 446", four days after the first infection was reported in Da Nang.

Her factory was locked down the next day and more than 300 workers were quarantined.

A week later five workers at three other industrial parks in the central city were found infected with the novel coronavirus. Within a week the new Covid-19 outbreak has spread to at least four factories in the city.

The factory where "patient 446" works halted operations from July 30, said vice chairwoman of Da Nang’s labor union Dinh Thi Thanh Ha. A number of other factories at industrial parks were put on red alert for a lockdown to contain the disease.

As Da Nang, the country's third most important city after Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, becomes the Covid-19 epicenter with 192 cases of infection, factories and businesses have the task of both remaining open and ensuring the safety of 77,000 workers.

The gate to Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in Da Nang City. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Phuong.

The gate to Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in Da Nang City. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Phuong.

Around two kilometers from the suspended factory, a paper roll producing plant where Thanh Luan works as a manager operates normally with 30 people working on two production lines.

Luan tells workers to go straight home after work to limit the risk of infection. Since August 3 the management has decided to provide lunch and dinner for all workers to prevent them from going out and reduce the risk of infection.

The city of 1.1 million people, from where at least 80,000 have left for other parts of the country since July 1, began a semi-lockdown on July 28, and all eateries are closed, including those that sell online or offer takeout.

"The cost will increase but the safety of workers is top priority," Luan said.

"Just one infected worker or someone coming into contact with an infected person, and the factory will be locked down."

All workers have to wear face masks inside the plant, have their body temperature screened daily and sit two meters apart as required under the social distancing measures.

But with the travel restrictions, Luan’s factory also faces difficulties with materials supply and rising transport costs.

Raw materials for making paper and firewood can only be bought in the city since supply from neighboring provinces has stopped. With shops and restaurants closed, the availability of scrap paper has fallen to less than three tons a day compared to the normal 10 tons.

Luan does not know what the future holds. "If the raw material runs out, production lines might have to stop running," he said.

After the country went three months without local transmission, production orders had recovered to 90 percent before the new outbreak changed everything.

An Thanh Company on Au Co Street, three kilometers outside the industrial park, supplies more than 6,000 meals a day to workers in the Hoa Khanh and Hoa Cam industrial parks.

After the pandemic returned, the company's cooks and other catering workers come to work and go straight home afterward without coming into contact with other employees.

The company, which has been in business for 14 years has been supplying food to quarantine facilities, somewhat making up for the reducing factory orders.

Cao Thi Hoai Thu, head of quality management, said the company managed to survive despite the pandemic and otherwise its workers would have been in an even harder situation.

The Da Nang economy shrank by 3.61 percent in the first half, its first contraction in the 23 years since it became a centrally administered city.

A survey of nearly 7,200 businesses in the city found that 90 percent had been affected by the outbreak, suspending operations, struggling to pay salaries and having difficulty sourcing materials.

Luan hoped the country could quickly bring the new outbreak under control and lift social distancing.

 
 
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