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Sri Lanka export factories conduct over 7000 Coronavirus tests, follow health rules to control Covid-19: BOI chief

ECONOMYNEXT – Companies in export under the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka are following Covid-19 health guidelines, running random Coronavirus tests and contacts of confirmed patients have been isolated by authorities to control the spread, a top official said.

“Extensive tests have been done,” Board of Investment Director General Sanjaya Mohottala said.

“Contacts have been traced and isolated.”

Up to Thursday authorities have confirmed around 100 patients from the Katunayake Export Processing zone.

They were mostly from contacts already traced isolated, he said.

Contacts of a cluster that developed in Minuwangoda spread to other factories in Sri Lanka through boarding houses and service providers, according to health officials.

Over 7,000 Coronavirus tests have been done so far, random testing is continuing, and companies are following health guidelines to bring the situation under control and there was no reason for alarm, Mohottala said.

Sri Lanka has well oiled contact tracing program but the Minuwangoda factory cluster was so large that it was initially difficult to cope.

However additional public health officers have been sent to the area and quarantine space was expanded. Sri Lanka has also halted returning expatriates to free up quarantine space.

Katunayake EPZ is estimated to have around 50,000 workers and about 60 companies. In Biyagama about 30,000 workers are estimated to work, according to worker representatives.

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Sri Lanka imposed curfew in Katunayake where the largest export industrial zone is located from Thursday morning as part of measures to control the spread.

Covid control authorities say the curfews were imposed to stop the spread of disease from any factory workers not already isolated to the general population.

In the Gampaha district where most of the export firms are located 18 other police areas have been put under curfew.

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Attendance at the Katunayake zone in particular had been low over the week with more than half the staff absent at some companies, industry officials said.

Export firms cannot get workers in curfew zones, but staff from non-curfew zones can come to work. Police said their work IDs could be used to enter and leave curfew zones.

Mohottala said there was an improvement in attendance by Thursday. There was a wide range of attendance depending on the location of workers, with some getting as much as 70 percent, he said.

But some companies have decided to close for a time, he said.

The state information office said 68 new Covid case were conformed on October 15 with the total from the cluster to 1,789, the largest cluster so far.

The total Coronavirus count in Sri Lanka went to 5,244 with 13 deaths.

The cluster from the Minuwangoda developed in the last week of September. In September Sri Lanka’s exports topped a billion US dollars.

Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board chief Prabash Subasinghe said there was drop in attendance in many companies.

The EDB was helping export firms which are not under BOI to get curfew passes and keep their operations going. (Colombo/Oct16/2020)