Maruti-Suzuki Swift cars roll off the assembly line at a plant in Manesar in India's Haryana state. Photo: AFP

Many industries are humming with activity again after a two-month long lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Though most site managers have taken elaborate safety and sanitization measures to keep their premises virus-free, cases of employees contracting Covid-19 are being reported across various industries.

In the latest instance, workers at two of India’s biggest carmakers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus days after operations resumed.

Three employees at Hyundai Motor Co’s Indian plant in Chennai have tested positive for the virus. The South Korean carmaker said the trio exhibited mild symptoms after it restarted operations on May 8.

The company said the test results of 16 workers who may have come into contact with the infected employees are expected soon. The company is relying on contact tracing, self-isolation and sanitization measures to contain the virus.

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, India’s largest carmaker, said one of its employees had contracted the virus at its plant in Manesar, near New Delhi.

Maruti, however, said there was no impact on business operations. The carmaker resumed work at its Manesar plant earlier this month. These cases highlight the risks and challenges the automobile units face as they try to resume production and move towards normalcy, he added.

Last week Chinese handset maker Vivo had to stop construction work at its plant near Delhi after it was found that two employees out of 18 tested had contracted the virus.

Vivo has now halted construction work on its new factory at an industrial park and pointed out that the affected people were not its direct employees.

Earlier last week, another Chinese phone maker, Oppo, reported five cases at its plant near Delhi. The plant was shut down just a few days after it had commenced operations and it was testing all its employees.

Though the government had urged industries to restart operations from April 20 onwards, only 5% of units complied. Factory owners had cited tough conditions as the reason for their reluctance. They had objected to the clause mooted by many state governments making factory owners liable for punishment if an employee tests positive for Covid-19. The states had later dropped the clause, paving the way for factory re-openings.

As most factories remained closed through April, India’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index had declined to 27.4 in April from 51.8 in March. It was the sharpest deterioration in business conditions since data analytics firm IHS Markit started collecting the data 15 years ago. A figure of above 50 indicates expansion, while a sub-50 print signals contraction. The survey tracks new orders, output, jobs, suppliers’ delivery time, and stocks of purchases for around 400 manufacturers.

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