Local lawmakers dismiss claims that fast-fashion factories are linked to a UK city COVID-19 spike — but an expert says these businesses are coronavirus hotspots
Textile factories in a UK city have come under investigation after reports surfaced that employers were putting workers at risk of COVID-19 infection. A workers' rights group said the conditions likely contributed to a fresh wave of infections in the city. While the local government said there is "no evidence" of these factories being linked to the spike, an expert told Business Insider that crowded factories are hotbeds for infection. The spread of the virus "boils down to crowded spaces, social distancing not being adhered to, and not paying enough attention to the appropriate hygiene," the expert said.
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Textile factories making clothes for fast-fashion brands in Leicester, England, face an investigation by the UK health authorities after a workers' rights group found multiple instances of workers being put at risk of catching COVID-19. By flouting social distancing rules, these factories may have contributed to a new wave of infection in the city, which is now under local lockdown, the group said. This claim is yet to be backed by the authorities. A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive in the UK confirmed that it has found factories violating health and safety requirements related to coronavirus, and said that it is taking "enforcement action of some kind" at half of the 30 textile factories it has visited. The common problems it is seeing are a lack of social distancing, an adequate cleaning regime, and employees not being given the chance to wash their hands frequently. "HSE is carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19. There has been no instance of a factory closing following an outbreak because of action taken by HSE," a spokesperson said. But Leicester City Council, which covers an area home to more than 1,500 textile factories, said in a press release on July 6 that so far the investigation has found "no evidence to suggest that the rise in coronavirus cases in the city is linked to the textile industry." A spokesperson for Public Health England, which is spearheading this investigation, told Business Insider that the recent COVID-19 "reflects activity in a number of settings in Leicester." "While there have been cases associated with workplaces, there is evidence of transmission occurring in households meaning we cannot definitely attribute the increase in cases to any one source," they said. Experts say that these factories are breeding grounds for infection. The spread of the virus "boils down to crowded spaces, social distancing not being adhered to, and not paying enough attention to the appropriate hygiene, and I suspect that is something that is going on in these factories in Leicester," Lawrence Young, a virologist and pro-dean at the University of Warwick, said in a phone conversation with Business Insider. Lack of ventilation is also an important factor in spreading the virus, he said, which is an issue in crowded workshop-type situations. "The other issue is people shouting at each other ... We know that loud speaking or shouting can spread the virus so on a busy production line where it's noisy and you're shouting across each other, that is another factor that will contribute," Young added. Over the past few months, factories – especially food manufacturers and food plants – have become hotspots for COVID-19 infection. Business Insider's Kate Taylor recently reported that workers at these plants in the US are particularly vulnerable because they work long shifts in close contact. Young said workers at food factories are also more vulnerable to catching the virus by touching contaminated surfaces because the virus lives longer in refrigerated environments. Workers in textile factories, where it is generally hotter, might be at less risk of catching the virus in this particular way, he said. Socioeconomic factors might also play a part. "There might be people that are feeling a bit sick but their imperative is to get to work to make a living," Young said.SEE ALSO: A workers' rights group says Boohoo's cut-price business model only turns a profit if workers are paid criminally low wages. Analysts disagree. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
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Los Angeles Apparel reports 2 more cases of COVID-19 in what officials called an 'open outbreak investigation'
At least 377 workers at Los Angeles Apparel have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the...At least 377 workers at Los Angeles Apparel have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Dov Charney, the company's founder, denied there was an "outbreak" at his company in a July interview with Business Insider. Since then, two more workers have caught the coronavirus. "The facility is under surveillance and is following infection control measures and the facility is reporting cases that immediately come to their attention to Public Health as they have been instructed to do," a spokesperson for the health department told Business Insider. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Los Angeles Apparel founder Dov Charney denied last month that there is an "outbreak" of COVID-19 at his company, but local health officials say the brand — which was shut down for weeks earlier this year after 375 employees tested positive for the coronavirus — has reported two more cases of the viral disease over 14 days. "The investigation at LA Apparel is still an open outbreak investigation," a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health told Business Insider last week. "Through our investigation of these two new cases, social distancing measures were adhered to and no other employees were exposed," the spokesperson added. "The facility will remain under surveillance." The company did not respond to a request for comment on what support it is providing infected staff or about the two other infections. Charney did not respond when Business Insider asked about the Department of Public Health's recent statement. In a July interview with Business Insider, Charney, the former head of American Apparel who was forced out over allegations of serial sexual harassment and financial mismanagement (allegations he denies), insisted that the problems at his company reflected the community with which it was in. "We have not had an outbreak at Los Angeles Apparel," Charney asserted, citing an infection rate of 15% that he said mirrored a local health clinic's test results. The clinic denied this, and his math hinged on there being 300 cases, not 375. By comparison, Los Angeles County's positive test rate has not exceeded 10% over the last two months. Now the toll has risen to at least 377, with four workers dead, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which first shuttered Charney's operations in late June over what inspectors and former employees said was a lack of social distancing. "We live in a free society," Charney told Business Insider soon after. "It's not like Big Brother can be there all the time." After its closure, operations are up and running again under the eye of public health authorities, which say conditions have improved after their demands — safety training for employees and better enforcement of physical distancing at their workplace — were met. "The facility is under surveillance and is following infection control measures and the facility is reporting cases that immediately come to their attention... as they have been instructed to do," the spokesperson said. Reopened, Los Angeles Apparel is once more fulfilling mask orders for the federal government, including the US Air Force, as The Daily Beast reported, under a contract that labels the company a "small disadvantaged business." Have a news tip? Email this reporter: email@example.comJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
While the rest of England gingerly reopens, the city of Leicester has gone back into lockdown...While the rest of England gingerly reopens, the city of Leicester has gone back into lockdown because of a troubling coronavirus infection rate.
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