The world’s largest maker of latex gloves, Top Glove, will temporarily shut down more than half of its factories in stages after more than 2,000 employees tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
Malaysia’s Top Glove will close 28 of its 41 plants after 2,453 workers tested positive for the virus, from 5,767 screened, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said Monday.
“All those who tested positive have been hospitalized and their close contacts have been quarantined to avoid infecting other workers,” he said.
The company has racked up record profits this year on sky-rocketing demand for its products and protective gear amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Based on the advice of Malaysia’s health ministry, the Top Glove factories will be closed in phases to allow for further screening and of its employees, many of whom come from Nepal and live in crowded dormitory complexes and hostels.
“The special cabinet meeting today decided that the 28 Top Glove factories in Klang will be ordered to halt operations in stages to allow the ministry to conduct tests and quarantine,” Senior Security Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement.
It is not yet clear when the Top Glove factory closures will begin.
Top Glove said in a stock exchange filing that since Wednesday, it has temporarily ceased production at 16 plants in the area, and the remaining 12 factories that have been ordered to close have been operating at much reduced capacities.
“We have completed full screening of about 5,700 workers at our hostels. We are committed to proceed with the [health ministry] recommended COVID-19 screening test of the balance [of] workers and staff at our factories in Meru, Klang,” Top Glove said in a statement (pdf).
“The safety and well-being of our employees and local community is our utmost priority toward containing the situation and to flatten the COVID-19 curve,” the statement said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to adhere to COVID-19 preventive SOPs [standard operating procedures] on a stringent basis.
“Disinfection exercises at our premises and accommodation are also conducted regularly, with all the necessary precautionary measures strictly in place.”
The company was thrust into the global spotlight in December 2018 after a investigation found that some migrants worked illegal overtime at Top Glove to pay off debts to recruitment agents in their home countries.
According to documents obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, some employees worked 90 to 120 hours of overtime a month, above the 104 hour overtime limit stipulated by Malaysia’s labor laws.
A separate investigation by The Guardian found that thousands of migrant workers from Nepal and Bangladesh were allegedly subject to exploitative working conditions.
Infections in Malaysia have been increasing sharply since October, prompting the government to tighten movement curbs. Total cases rose to 56,659 on Monday.
Reuters contributed to this report.