Malaysia to shut some Top Glove factories in phases amid virus outbreak

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a Top Glove worker to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a hostel under enhanced lockdown in Klang

By Rozanna Latiff and Liz Lee

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will close some of Top Glove’s factories in stages as it moves to screen employees for the novel coronavirus after more than 2,000 workers tested positive, authorities said on Monday.

The world’s largest maker of latex gloves has racked up record profits this year on sky-rocketing demand for its products and protective gear, thanks to the pandemic.

But 28 factory buildings will be shut in phases after 2,453 workers tested positive for the virus, from 5,767 screened, said Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“All those who tested positive have been hospitalised and their close contacts have been quarantined to avoid infecting other workers,” Noor Hisham said.

Most of the total 2,524 positive cases in the cluster were factory workers, with 2,360 foreigners and 164 Malaysians, he said.

Senior Security Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on the health ministry’s advice and risk evaluation, the government has agreed that some of Top Glove factories be closed in stages, to allow further screening and quarantine.

He did not say when the closures would begin, however.

Top Glove said in a stock exchange filing that it has temporarily stopped production at 16 facilities in the area since last Wednesday, with the balance of 12 facilities operating at much reduced capacities.

“We have completed full screening of about 5,700 workers at our hostels. We are committed to proceed with the (health ministry) recommended COVID-19 screening test of the balance (of) workers and staff at our factories in Meru, Klang,” it said.

Last week, the government ordered 14-day curbs through Nov. 30 in parts of a district about 40 kms (24.8 miles) west of the capital Kuala Lumpur, where Top Glove factories and dormitories are located.

Analysts had said the curbs did not change earnings forecasts for the company but they could re-assess projections if infections at the factories rise sharply and curbs are extended.

Infections in Malaysia have been increasing sharply since October, prompting the government to tighten movement curbs. Total cases rose to 56,659 on Monday.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and Liz Lee; Editing by Toby Chopra, Clarence Fernandez and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)