By Hal Williams
IN A BLEAK Covid irony, the world’s largest manufacturer of personal protection latex gloves will shut 28 of its factories — because almost half of its 5,800 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.
Malaysia’s Top Glove company had been well positioned at the centre of global demand for protective gear. Now it is being forced to carry out a phased shut-down of 28 plants to control the outbreak.
The Malaysian health ministry reported an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases around Top Glove factories and dormitories. Concerns had previously been raised about the working conditions of the low-paid migrant workers staffing the plants.
The ministry has reported 2,453 positive tests positive among 5,800 workers screened so far.
There has been little support from the government. Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman has even called for a “windfall tax” on glove-makers’ profits to help the nation, quoting a figure of RM4.8bn ($1.17bn) that he says should be met. Rahman, a former youth and sports minister, said the growth in numbers of Covid-19 cases linked to Top Glove meant he had no sympathy for big companies. Glove manufacturers had made “supernormal” profits during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Top Glove operates 41 factories in Malaysia. Its largely migrant staff come from various countries, including Nepal, to work in the factories; they live in company dormitories.
All workers who tested positive have been hospitalised and their close contacts have been quarantined, according to Malaysia’s director-general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah.
It is not known when the factory closures will begin.