ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer Brandix has denied allegations that the company had provided an Indian party access to its Minuwangoda facility, the epicentre of a surprise resurgence of COVID-19 in the island. All Sri Lankan Brandix employees and their families returning from India via chartered flights, the company said, had adhered to a 28-day quarantine upon arrival.
In a clarification issued this evening (07), Brandix stressed that none of the returning Sri Lankan employees nor their family members had visited the Minuwangoda facility.
“We can confirm that no parties from India or any other country have had access to the facility during this period. We would also like to clarify that our facility in Minuwangoda does not use any fabric from India nor has it taken in any orders from our facility in India as well,” the company said, in response to allegations circulating on social media and elsewhere.
“We operated three chartered flights from Visakhapatnam, India for our Sri Lankan employees working in India and their families, who returned to Sri Lanka. We confirm that they, including their families, followed the Sri Lanka Government protocol for the prevention and control of COVID-19, which includes PCR testing and a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a government regulated quarantine facility, as well as the 14-day self-quarantine process done under the supervision of the respective PHIs,” it added.
However, Programme Coordinator of the Dabindu Collective Chamila Thushari speaking to EconomyNext yesterday said that human resource (HR) personnel at the Minuwangoda factory who contracted the virus had visited a number of factories located in the free trade zone.
“There are about 50,000 employees working in the free trade zone and [the HR personnel] have put all their lives at risk,” Thushari said.
Citing remarks purportedly made by Minuwangoda workers, Thushari alleged that factory management had disregarded the mandated health procedures even when employees with symptomps had insisted on them. She further charged that management had denied leave for employees who had signs of fever, although they were later given leave for the recent long weekend.
“Some workers in Katunayaka said they have been pressured by management to come in to work despite the risk,” she said.
Thushari reiterated these remarks in a video that has gone on viral on Facebook.
In a separate video, a distraught hostel owner named Damayanthi admonishing Brandix over cleaning workers who had purportedly contracted the virus.
Responding to the video, the company said: “We have also noted the circulation of a video on social media that alleges that the company has requested employees to come into work, following the identification of the initial COVID-19 positive employee at the facility in Minuwangoda. We have identified that the primary female party is the owner of a hostel, while the two members occupying her hostel and the supervisor being referred to are employed by a third-party cleaning service provider contracted by the Brandix Minuwangoda facility. We confirm that none of these individuals are employees of Brandix.”
The Brandix cluster is at 1,028 confirmed cases at the time of writing in what has become the single biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the country yet. (Colombo/Oct7/2020)