The world’s largest medical glove maker confirmed Monday that one of its workers died from contracting Covid-19 after a mass outbreak tied to its factories in Malaysia infected more than 5,000 employees.
The company’s latex gloves and other personal protective equipment have been in high demand during the pandemic, and profits have soared. But the Malaysian-based firm has come under fire over allegations of substandard labor conditions, claims it denies.
Pressure has increased since the recent outbreak, which was first detected in November and is now considered the largest cluster in a country that has recorded more than 83,000 cases and 415 deaths.
A 29-year-old security guard from Nepal named Yamnarayan Chaudhary Tharu was the first death linked to the Top Glove infections, the company told VICE World News. He died on Saturday.
“Top Glove offers our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased and is working with the authorities for Mr. Tharu’s burial arrangements,” the company said, adding that “compassionate payment” will be made to the victim’s family.
Tharu worked in the company’s factory in Klang, 25 miles from the capital Kuala Lumpur, for more than two years. Like many workers at Top Glove, he was from South Asia.
The death is bound to attract more focus on the company, which made headlines this year after the United States banned imports from some of its subsidiaries over alleged labor violations. Earlier this month, the Malaysian government said it was pursuing charges against Top Glove based on accommodation conditions, which the company has pledged to address.
A former Top Glove factory employee who asked not to be named told VICE World News that security guards used handheld thermal scanners to screen temperatures of workers entering facilities, and this may have exposed them to greater risk. He said that his former colleagues who are still employed by the company told him they fear for their lives.
“Some of my friends who are still working or are in quarantine worry they will die next,” he said. “They also said there is not enough food in the quarantine rooms.”
The company maintains it follows standard operating procedures laid out in the Malaysian government’s Covid-19 guidelines. It also said that as of Sunday, 92 percent of its employees who were tested have recovered. The percentage includes workers who tested negative and underwent quarantine periods after contact tracing.
Malaysia’s total coronavirus caseload rose to 83,475 as of Sunday, according to a tally in local media.