Top Glove to Shut Factories as it Screens Workers for COVID-19

Top Glove, the world’s biggest manufacturer of medical gloves, has said it will fully cooperate with the Malaysian government on the staggered closure of its factories to allow all staff to be screened for COVID-19 amid an escalating outbreak of the coronavirus among its workforce.

Top Glove has temporarily suspended operations at 16 of its factories in Meru, a town west of Kuala Lumpur, and the 12 remaining facilities are operating at “much reduced capacities”, it said in a statement on Monday night after the government ordered the staggered closure of its factories.

With the help of the Ministry of Health, the company has already completed the screening of about 5,700 workers at its hostels, the statement said.

“We are committed to proceed with the COVID-19 screening test for the balance (of) workers and staff of our factories in Meru,” the company said without elaborating on the numbers involved or when the process would begin.

“The safety and wellbeing of our employees and local community is our utmost priority towards containing the situation and to flatten the COVID-19 curve.”

Malaysia recorded a record 1,884 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday with the cluster of cases originating from Top Glove’s factories and staff dormitories contributing 57 percent of all cases (1,067).

Demand for Top Glove’s products has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic [File: Fazry Ismail/EPA]

Malaysia is battling a resurgence of the coronavirus, following an election in the Borneo state of Sabah, which helped seed outbreaks elsewhere in the country. Cases have been particularly high on construction sites and factories where workers often live in cramped conditions that enable the virus to spread more easily.

Some 2,524 people out of 5,767 tested at the cluster around Top Glove were positive for COVID-19 and ranged in age from two years old to 68, the health ministry said in a statement on Monday. Some 1,330 samples had come back negative while 1,913 people were still awaiting results, it added.

Labour practices

Top Glove first announced a number of its workers had been diagnosed with the coronavirus on November 5. Just less than two weeks later, as cases jumped, a strict lockdown affecting not only the company’s hostels but more than 1,000 people living on a surrounding housing estate was imposed.

The health ministry says it estimates about 13,000 people will be tested across all Top Glove’s 28 factories during the phased closures.

Top Glove has benefitted from the pandemic as demand for its medical products has increased, but has also come under renewed scrutiny for its labour practices and treatment of migrant workers. In July, US Customs and Border Protection banned imports from two of its units, and last month the company agreed to pay compensation to its foreign workers over recruitment fees and other costs.

Top Glove workers wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a hostel under enhanced lockdown in Malaysia [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

The stock fell as much as 7.5 percent on the Malaysian Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning but recovered some ground as trading progressed.

As well as the cases from Top Glove’s facilities, clusters at two construction sites in Kuala Lumpur contributed the second- and third-highest number of cases on Monday.

Malaysia has reported a total of 56,659 cases and 337 deaths. Much of the country, including Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the country’s richest state, have been in a partial lockdown since the middle of October.


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