Covid-19 scare: Surat diamond hub calls for voluntary closure for a week

Topics Coronavirus | Surat | Lockdown

The spike in cases in Surat diamond industry comes at a time when the industry has seen roughly 200,000 workers resume work with the industry operating at 50 per cent capacity
With Covid-19 positive cases rising among its workers, the Surat diamond industry has called for a voluntary closure of units for a week to arrest the outbreak. Industry representatives also met with civic authorities on Monday to chalk out additional norms amidst the fresh outbreak. 

In a notification to the diamond polishing unit owners as well as traders, regional chairman of Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and vice president of South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) called for voluntary closure of units for a week.

"Currently, due to the situation arising out of Covid-19 there are a rising number of positive cases among workers in the diamond industry which could lead to more infection among others involved in the industry and their family members in near future. Taking all kinds of precautions to face the Covid-19 challenge is the foremost step needed to be taken right now by all small and large diamond polishing unit owners. Therefore, I appeal to all of you to voluntarily shut down our units for the next one week and join hands with the nation and world in facing this pandemic," said Navadia.

Most of the diamond polishing units are largely situated in and around the areas of Katargam and Varachha in Surat which have seen a spike in Covid cases. 

Already 10 units have voluntarily closed so far. However, post the meeting between industry representatives and civic authorities including municipal commissioner and mayor, fresh norms will be incorporated to safeguard workers, unit owners and their families.

For instance, if a diamond polishing unit operates from more than floor in a building and if a Covid case is detected in one floor then that floor will be shut and quarantined for a week. "But if three or more cases are detected in a single floor then the entire unit will be shut for a week for institutional quarantine. Also all centrally air-conditioned units have to keep themselves ventilated as much as possible. And every worker should be served herbal tea and hot water frequently," Navadia added.

The spike in cases in Surat diamond industry comes at a time when the industry has seen roughly 200,000 workers resume work with the industry operating at 50 per cent capacity. Under the new norms, only two workers instead of previous four will be stationed at each table for polishing diamonds.

While Surat may have taken such steps, overall the gems and jewellery industry is going by guidelines of the respective states and cities, said the newly appointed chairman of GJEPC Colin Shah. 

The diamond industry had voluntarily discontinued rough diamond imports for the whole month of June in order to stabilise prices that had begun seeing lot of volatility. According to Shah, with demand levels still at 30-40 per cent, inventory of rough diamonds with the industry lying since the beginning of the lockdown in March will get cleared by second quarter of the current fiscal 2020-21.

"The discontinuance of imports has helped in controlling volatility in pricing which are now steady," he added. 

Navadia said that with $2.3 billion of rough diamonds inventory lying with the industry, it would take another 2-3 months to service previous orders. "There are also financial constraints in the industry and payments are not happening. In such a scenario, importing more rough diamonds will not make sense in the interim," Navadia added.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel