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2020-04-27

Bangladesh restarts certain garment factories, India is debating a lightening of restrictions

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More than 500 garment factories in Bangladesh, supplying global brands, reopened on Monday after a month-long shutdown to curb coronavirus spread, while calls in India grew to ease their lockdown, causing deep economic pain.

Clothing manufacturers were allowed to resume work in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and in the port city of Chittagong. Some of the world's largest clothing firms, including Gap Inc, Zara-owner Inditex, and H&M, come from Bangladesh to source their supplies.

"We ensure workers wear masks, wash hands at the entrance, undergo temperature controls and maintain physical distance," said Mohammad Hatem, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice president.

Industry groups for the sector, which boasts some 4,000 factories employing 4.1 million workers, warned that this financial year's shutdown could result in the country losing $6 billion in export revenue.

Competitors from Bangladesh like Vietnam, China and Cambodia have already resumed operations, Hatem said. More than 5000 cases of coronavirus and 145 deaths have been reported in Bangladesh.

In India, where a strict shutdown for its 1.3 billion people is due to end on May 3, Prime Minister Narendra began talks with the country's 28 states' chief ministers to decide what restrictions should be maintained.

Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of the western state of Rajasthan, said that any extension of the severe lockdown could cause people to starve and the government should allow economic activity to begin in less-affected regions. Around 300 of the 730 districts in India have not reported coronavirus cases.

"I can't tell how many people will die of corona, but people will die of hunger if the situation continues," he said.

India's has 27,891 confirmed new coronavirus infections, the second highest in Asia after China, according to government data on Monday. 872 people have died so far.

The government says the lockdown has meant it now takes 10 days for cases to double, compared to last month's 3.6 days.

"The situation is improving in the country. Districts of hotspots are turned into districts that are non-hotspots, "Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.

Maldives' Indian Ocean island nation also reported a spike in cases, mostly among migrant workers who live in packed dormitories in the capital Male. The country has 200 confirmed cases, a large number of them are migrant workers from Bangladesh, the government said.