More than 200 COVID-19 infections at Guatemala textile plant

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — More than 200 workers at an export-focused textile plant in Guatemala have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and more results are pending in what could be one of the country’s largest outbreaks, officials said Monday.

Zulma Calderon, the health prosecutor for Guatemala’s Human Rights prosecutor’s office, said they began receiving reports in early May that infected workers were continuing to work at the K.P. Textil plant in San Miguel Petapa and the company wasn’t taking protective measures.

“We asked then that the Health (Ministry) examine all of the personnel,” she said.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry said it believed the plant’s outbreak stemmed from one infected worker.

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On May 12, the local health agency advised of six positive cases among the plant’s at least 900 workers, but advised that plant management was not cooperating.

Francisco Reyes, the K.P. Textil, S.A. plant manager, denied that authorities told him workers had tested positive before he decided to close the plant May 12 for two weeks.

“Now we’re reorganizing the cafeteria to comply with distancing,” he said.

Guatemala reported Sunday more than 3,300 confirmed infections and 58 deaths.

Outbreaks at other export-oriented plants have been reported elsewhere in the region, especially Mexico where border assembly plants tried to continue operating during the pandemic.

Calderon, the health prosecutor, said she had asked authorities to establish a health cordon around the plant to try to avoid further spread. But the spread has likely already occurred.

Petapa Mayor Mynor Morales said the factory’s outbreak had deeply worried his city. The bustling working class bedroom community south of the capital is home to many export-oriented factories. After hearing of the positive results health workers tested people at some of the small food stores near the plant and got other positive results for the virus, he said.

He was evaluating with his lawyers the possibility of presenting a complaint against the factory’s owners to establish whether there was negligence on their part.

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