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Dhaka - Knitting mills across Bangladesh will continue to operate during the country's new Covid-19 lockdown following a plea from the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

With the industry key to the national economy, the Bangladeshi government agreed with concerns over closures, which also came from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).

The government has decided to allow factories to run during the lockdown, which began on 14 April following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Faruque Hassan, president-elect of the BGMEA, confirmed in a WhatsApp message that it had been decided that all export-oriented industries would remain up and running during the lockdown.

And BKMEA vice president Fazlee Shamim Ehsan told journalists: "Hygiene rules will be maintained strictly in the factories. Workers, who live far from factories, should be provided transports.

"Owners will bear the medical cost if any worker falls sick during the time. Covid-19 tests will be carried out at BGMEA's own labs in Dhaka and Chattogram if any worker found with symptoms."

Except for emergency service providers, all government, semi-government and private organisations, shops and markets are supposed to remain shut during the week-long lockdown.

Textile and garment manufacturers and exporters warned that a lockdown would cause them huge losses, as they would fail to meet shipment targets, and feared orders would be lost to other countries.

Bangladesh is the world's second biggest garment manufacturer and the industry accounts for around 85 per cent of the country's annual exports.

Mohammad Abdus Salam, acting president of BGMEA, said: "The garment suppliers have been struggling to recover the losses they incurred during the first wave of the pandemic."

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, said keeping garment factories open would be to the benefit of both workers and factory owners.

"However, factory owners and the government will have to maintain adequate safety measures so that the workers are safe," he added.

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