Factories in yellow zones reopen, but not good news for all workers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Garment workers stand in front of their rented apartments in Stung Meanchey III commune of Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district last week. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

At least 95 factories in Phnom Penh’s yellow zones have reopened over the past week, but workers have yet to return to work because they remained stuck in the red and orange zones, according to Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour.

Sour was speaking at a special May 3 forum on actions and results of measure enforcement to contain the pandemic attended by relevant ministries and institutions and broadcast on the National Television of Cambodia (TVK).

“About 15,000 workers, or 30 per cent, could return to work in their factories. But even though they have reopened, the workers could not go back to work as usual yet.”

He added that the resumption of these factories’ operations was a good sign, even as the spread of Covid-19 has not subsided. He said the 30 to 50 per cent of workers could maintain preventive health measures to slow the pandemic.

However, the remaining workers could not return because they lived in rented houses and rooms in the restricted zones and were banned from commuting even if they lived near a reopened factory.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon said that at this stage, there was no other alternative when the labour ministry allowed some factories to resume production. Smaller numbers of workers mean the spread of Covid could be prevented.

“If the government lifts the lockdown in Phnom Penh but continue to ban people from travelling in and out of high-risk zones, it would be okay to allow people [at lower-risk zones] to resume their businesses,” he said.

Sour said that as of April 28, the spread of Covid-19 had led to the suspension of more than 200 factories. A total of 1,673 workers had tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 10,000 had been quarantined.