Taiwan invested firm at risk of becoming Covid-19 hotspot

By Huu Cong   April 10, 2020 | 10:45 pm PT
Taiwan invested firm at risk of becoming Covid-19 hotspot
Employees at Pouyuen Vietnam Co. Ltd leave the company after work on April 8, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Footwear maker Pouyuen Vietnam Co. Ltd., HCMC’s biggest employer, has been asked to scale down operations over Covid-19 safety concerns.

The request follows a downgrading of the Covid-19 infection risk at the company.

The footwear maker has 62,000 employees in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Tan District. If it does not scale down its operations, it would be suspended, district Chairman Le Van Thinh said Friday.

The latest data collected by the disease control center under HCMC Labor Federation says the novel coronavirus infection risk indicator at this company had fallen to 81 percent Thursday from 91 percent on April 6.

The company’s own measurement, however, puts the risk factor at just 51 percent.

As per the city’s regulations, companies with Covid-19 infection risk indicator of more than 80 percent must be temporarily shut down.

Earlier this month, HCMC issued an evaluation tool to decide if companies are qualified enough to operate in this pandemic period.

To come up with the indicator, it evaluates firms in 10 different categories on a scale from one to 10, with higher risks getting higher scores. The scores are put together and their percentage calculated to get the indicator.

If the indicator is under 10 percent, the company can operate normally; at 10-30 percent, it will be periodically inspected; for 30-50 percent, it will only be allowed to operate if there is no category scoring more than seven; for 50-80 percent, it has to develop tools that could bring down the risk as approved by the authorities. Over 80 percent, the business must be suspended.

The 10 components are: 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; the rate of employees having body temperatures checked before entering the company; the distance between employees in the canteen; the number of employees going to work on company buses; the number of stations for picking up and dropping off employees; and the last two categories are whether the company issues single-use face masks every day for employees (or issue enough washable face masks for all employees), and whether the company keeps its night shift open.

Kim Vinh Cuong, deputy chairman of the Pouyuen labor union, said that after the company was warned by the city’s authorities, it has deployed different methods to decrease its Covid-19 risk indicator, including: 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, instead of just doing so with experts who drop by occasionally as before.

However, for the mass gathering of people at the company’s gate every afternoon, the company has yet to come up with a plan.

"A crowd at the gate after work is hard to avoid because the number of workers is way too high. But this situation is just for a while and soon after, everyone gets on buses to go home or drives home on their motorbikes," Cuong said.

Binh Tan Chairman Thinh said the district was collaborating with related agencies to see if recent methods deployed by Pouyuen are effective enough to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Though Vietnam is implementing an April 1-15 nationwide social distancing campaign during which people are asked to stay home and only go out when it is truly needed, the government has told local authorities to ensure the availability of essential goods and the flow of commerce needed for it.

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 120 cases and 58 discharges.

Vietnam has 113 active cases after 144 discharges as of Friday.

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