Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has announced that over 90% of the workforce of the apparel factories have been vaccinated with at least one dose, with over 70% having received both doses. At the current pace, the organisation anticipates that the entire workforce will have received both doses by the end of September.
JAAF and its member companies have continuously monitored the risk of spread of Covid-19 at their factories and facilities since the initial outbreak in 2020, and have taken steps to ensure that companies involved in the supply chain, as well as service providers such as cafeteria services, security personnel, and those who transport workers and material to and from the factories, are vaccinated as well. Accordingly, many companies have already begun this process, and hope to complete vaccinating of all such personnel very soon.
Further, JAAF claimed that its members take the mental and physical well-being of their workforce very seriously, and are doing everything they must to ensure the safety of their people. Therefore, social distancing and other safety protocols mandated by the Ministry of Health continue to be strictly monitored and implemented. Many companies have also taken steps to create a safe and secure environment for workers, including isolating the workforce into teams in order to reduce the risk of spread.
JAAF, in co-ordination with public health authorities, is exploring options for increasing protection of the local communities where the factories and facilities are located, and is considering available options for the rapid vaccination of the families of workers.
Additionally, factories are conducting continuous awareness programmes to keep workers informed of the current situation and the latest developments.
Despite the country entering a lockdown from 20 August in an effort to curb the rapid spread of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of the Covid-19 virus, the apparel industry has been allowed to operate under strict health guidelines. According to JAAF, closing down the apparel industry is not an option, as a delay in meeting delivery deadlines would enable competitors from other countries to snag orders at a cheaper price, thereby affecting the Sri Lankan export market in the long term.
However, cumulative apparel exports have fallen 11.2% Year-on-Year (YoY) during the first nine months of 2021 to $ 2.8 billion, from $ 3.1 billion during the same equivalent period in 2020.