The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) has written to the Minister of Health Family Welfare asking for the government’s support in testing people working in the manufacturing industry for covid-19, and for the central government to bear the cost of this testing. The ICEA represents the mobile handset industry in India, including the components ecosystem and the rest of the electronics industry.
In the letter, the ICEA said that there is “great uncertainty” in the industry right now because of the government’s regulations regarding testing for covid-19. It said the industry would “like to rapidly test employees/factory workers in mass” to reduce the risk of infection. “The testing should be very rapid, speedy and economical,” the letter states.
The ICEA cited examples of other countries, where workers were tested rapidly in order to return normalcy to the manufacturing industries. The industry body said China had returned manufacturing operations to normalcy by March this year thanks to such testing, while South Korea implemented “several measures” including text alerts and smartphone apps to share testing information and perform contact tracing.
The industry now wants the government to allow personnel to be tested using the rapid antibody test or antigen test in order to identify infected patients. “These tests can give the results within an hour and at a much lower cost than an RT-PCR (real time transcription polymerase chain reaction) test, making it acceptable and adaptable for mass testing of all the concerned people in the industry,” the ICEA said in the letter.
“We therefore request you to kindly ensure the mandate of Rapid Antibody/Antigen testing for surveillance and preliminary screening to combat the covid-19 epidemic effectively for all the personnel of the Mobile and Electronics industry at a Regulated Price for the continuity of the supply chain and logistics management, retail and warehousing for the smooth functioning of the manufacturing/production/sale operations relating to mobile and electronics industry in various states/ UTs. We also request that the Central Government should arrange the same at their cost,” it added.
The mobile phone industry has restarted operations since about a month now, and sales have also jumped back as expected. Companies like Xiaomi, which leads the industry in India, have said that pent up demand from customers have helped sales bounce back and many now expect the Q2 and Q3 sales for this year to improve.
However, the industry has also had troubles with infections. A factory run by Chinese player Oppo had to be shut down in the initial days of lockdown 3.0, days after it had opened. Oppo had to shut down operations on May 17 and could reopen only this month. At the same time, workers at a construction facility where a new factory for Vivo was being constructed, were also found to be infected, and hence shut down.