Bangladesh lets garment factories, a pillar of its economy, reopen, but workers fear infection.
Authorities in Bangladesh have given the green light to resume operations at garment factories, which make up a large part of the national economy, but some workers fear they might get the coronavirus by returning to cramped factory floors.
Around 1,800 of 7,620 garment and textile factories have reopened in recent days after a strict lockdown that shut most of the economy in an already poor country.
“We reopened industry partially and asked factory owners to follow health protocol and ensure health safety for workers,” said Mohammed Abdus Salam, a vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “Many factories have orders for next winter season starting in September. We have no other choice of starting work this time to complete the whole process of production.”
Nazma Akter, president of a garments workers’ union said, “I have received complaints from some workers of a few factories that physical distancing and other health safety measures have not been maintained properly.”
“The owners reopened factories hurriedly and arbitrarily,’’ she added. “If the virus spreads again among the workers, this won’t be a big problem only for the industry but also for the country.”
Farhad Hossain Khan, a superintendent of Industrial Police, said garment workers had protested on Sunday and Monday in industrial areas.
“Some workers protested, demanding their due wages, some workers protest demanding reopening of their factories. We solved problems through dialogue with workers and owners,” he said, adding that the police continued monitoring to ensure worker safety.
The Bangladesh government announced a countrywide shutdown from March 26 to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The authorities have asked people to stay home and suspended travel inside the country by air, road and train. The country recorded its first infections on March 8 and has reported around 6,000 infections and 150 deaths.
Recycling companies have closed, and the impact is hitting those who work the pile at a large landfill in Indonesia.
When the Bantar Gebang facility — one of the world’s largest landfills — is operating at full tilt, hundreds of scavengers swarm around the heavy equipment rumbling on the mountain of garbage. They typically earn from $2 to $10 a day, from the plastic, metal, wood and electronic waste they collect as they deal with workplace hazards like landslides. But the global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has reached this part of Indonesia, adding to the misery.
Most recycling companies that buy waste from the trash pickers, known as pemulung, have closed their doors, so fewer pemulung are working because they have no place to sell what they collect, said Resa Boenard, co-founder of Seeds of Bantar Gebang, a nonprofit helping the community.
New social distancing rules imposed by the provincial government took effect this month in Bantar Gebang, prompting even more trash pickers to stay off the pile.
No cases of the virus have been reported in the landfill’s villages, but no one has been tested there, either, said Asep Gunawan, the head of Bantar Gebang district, which includes the landfill. The trash pickers don’t qualify for government coronavirus aid because they are not registered as residents.
There is a widespread belief in Indonesia that living in unsanitary conditions helps people build immunity to diseases like the coronavirus — an unscientific view that will be put dangerously to the test in the landfill’s shantytowns, where thousands of people live.
Israel’s Memorial Day observance is even more somber than usual.
Civil-defense sirens sounded on Monday night to signal the start of Israel’s solemn Memorial Day observance, but unlike in ordinary years, when the moment halts traffic, the remembrance arrived with most of the country already on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin of Israel sought to console those who were mourning fallen soldiers or victims of terrorism alone, at home, rather than “wrapped in the embrace of those who love them.”
The virus-related restrictions were a boon, however, to an alternative ceremony that for 15 years has drawn together bereaved families from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The live-streamed event reached its biggest audience yet, organizers said, with at least 170,000 viewers.
Hagai Yoel, an Israeli whose older brother was killed in 2002 on a military rescue mission in Jenin, said he couldn’t bear to imagine his 13-year-old son in uniform in five years. “I know that in order to resolve a conflict, both sides have to give up on something, because If I take it all, the other side will remain frustrated and despairing,” Mr. Yoel said.
And Yaqub al-Rabi, whose wife, Aisha, was killed in 2018 by Israeli settlers who stoned their car, said he wanted to “convey to Israeli society, and to the whole world, a message born from my bleeding wound.”
“We all lose victims to this conflict,” he said. “It doesn’t tell apart soldiers and civilians, women and men, children and adults. Or those taking part and bystanders. This conflict is man-made. And humans can end it.”
Mexico empties migrant detention centers to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Mexican government has almost entirely emptied its network of migrant detention centers, deporting the people in them, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among detainees, the authorities announced.
A detainee population that reached more than 3,700 last month is down to 106, with some of the system’s 65 centers now shut, officials said.
In the past seven weeks, as the pandemic worsened in Mexico, the authorities deported 3,653 migrants to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Mexican government cast its decision to clear out the system as a humanitarian act in response to recommendations from government health officials and national and international groups.
The United Nations as well as human rights groups and migrants’ advocates in Mexico and the United States have been pressuring the Mexican government to release detainees for fear that contagion could easily spread through the system.
In recent weeks, detainees in several centers launched protests, saying that overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate medical care were perfect conditions for an outbreak. Some of the protests turned violent, resulting in injuries and the death of a detainee.
Mexican officials said that so far, no migrant in the detention system has tested positive for Covid-19.
“A pandemic is not the time to have people in close proximity to one another,” said Christopher Gascon, chief of the Mexico office for the International Office for Migration, an inter-governmental group.
With the flow of migrants through Mexican territory at almost a standstill during the pandemic, the detention system will likely remain mostly empty for the foreseeable future. The Mexican government emphasized, however, that it was continuing to enforce migration laws in its territory.
Reporting was contributed by Jacey Fortin, Mihir Zaveri, Adam Dean, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Andrew Jacobs and Dera Menra Sijabat.