The government on Tuesday ordered Armenia’s largest textile factory to close for three days after at least three of its 2,600 employees tested positive for coronavirus.
Officials in the northern city of Vanadzor, which is home to the Gloria company factory, said about two dozen other workers have been placed in quarantine and may also undergo coronavirus tests. Some of them have a fever.
According to the Vanadzor-based governor of the surrounding Lori province, Andrei Ghukasian, two of the infected workers were hospitalized. One of them, a pregnant woman, was taken to a hospital in Yerevan.
“They are alright,” Ghukasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “They just had a slight fever. That’s how [their infection] was detected by one of our policlinics. They will now be under doctors’ surveillance.”
Gloria’s owner, Bagrat Darbinian, insisted that he has followed all anti-epidemic rules that have been set by the Armenian government for manufacturers. He said the factory’s premises have been disinfected twice a day and all workers have been provided with hand sanitizers, medical masks and rubber gloves.
“It’s only natural that people get infected just like they do all over the country and around the world,” Darbinian declared at the same time.
The businessman claimed that despite the coronavirus outbreak all of his mostly female employees want to keep working. “If they don’t want to work or if the government decides that they must not work we will not work,” he said.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced later in the day that a government body enforcing the coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia has ordered a three-day shutdown of the Vanadzor factory. He said Gloria will have to suspend production operations on Wednesday morning.
It was not clear if the Gloria management will also have to take additional safety measures.
Gloria and other textile plants were allowed to resume their work in late April following a month-long stoppage ordered by the government as part of a nationwide lockdown. Pashinian said on April 12 that the textile industry should be able to restart its activities despite being “the main driving force” of coronavirus infections in the country
Following Pashinian’s statement, a government task force set concrete social distancing rules and other precautions for the export-oriented industry. Darbinian claimed that those requirements are too strict when Gloria’s employees defied the government ban and returned to their workplaces on April 21.
The angry workers said they want the factory to immediately resume its work because they cannot support themselves and their families after the month-long lockdown. Darbinian told them that they should not be afraid of contracting COVID-19. “If we get infected, we’ll recover,” the Gloria owner said at the time.
Authorities shut down the plant again the following day. Still, they agreed to soften the rules.
The daily number of coronavirus cases registered by the health authorities has increased dramatically since then.
“The main reason for the rise in the number of cases is industrial enterprises,” Pashinian said on May 24. The prime minister accused businesses of failing to follow social distancing and hygiene rules. He said the government will now enforce tougher penalties for such violations.
The authorities have recorded just over 10,000 coronavirus cases across Armenia to date. Less than 100 of them have been registered in Lori, according to the provincial administration.