Factory Work Disrupted by Fear of SARS

Garment factory workers fearful that a fellow employee carried severe acute respiratory syndrome back from a recent trip to Chi­na erupted into chaos last week, disrupting production and sending the healthy woman to the hospital for a checkup, a workers’ representative said Monday.

Many of approximately 3,700 workers at the Tai Yen Enterprise Co Ltd in Dangkao district panicked Friday when worker Ji Hong, 31, returned from a three-month visit to China wearing a surgical mask, said Tat Chan­thoeun, a representative of the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Concern over Ji Hong’s state of health prompted workers to request masks of their own and demand that she be sent to the hospital for observation, said Tai Yen Enterprise administrator Meng Sokha.

Meng Sokha said an ensuing three days of disrupted work prompted factory management to send Ji Hong to the Tong Zing private health clinic on Sihanouk Boulevard to check her health. He said a doctor ruled out any possibility of SARS.

Factory manager Kiki Wang de­nied Monday that workers were concerned about a potential SARS outbreak and said that no worker had been sent to the hospital.

Health officials from the Minis­try of Health’s Communi­cable Di­sease Control Depart­ment visited the factory Monday to investigate the workers’ concerns, said Dr Sever­in Von Xylan­der of the World Health Organiza­tion.

Ji Hong’s travel history was scrutinized, as well as her health status. The worker exhibited no symptoms of SARS, he said.

Meng Sokha said Ji Hong has been ordered to remain under observation in the clinic for two weeks.

(Additional reporting by Kate Woodsome)


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