Sunday was a tough day for two of India's largest car makers - Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. It was the day when the companies confirmed that an employee of Maruti Suzuki and at least three employees of Hyundai Motor India had tested positive for Covid-19. That both companies had only resumed operations at their respective manufacturing facilities earlier this month after weeks of work suspension meant that alarm bells may have immediately begun ringing.
In a statement issued early morning, Maruti confirmed that an employee at its Manesar facility was residing in an area which had been turned into a containment zone. The said employee did not report to work after this development - his last attendance was on May 15, and eventually tested positive. The company further added that there was a possibility of a second positive case but has not confirmed it yet.
Hyundai would issue a statement later in the day informing that three of its employees at its plant near Chennai had started showing symptoms of Covid-19. "They were immediately asked to meet medical expert team for further evaluation. They subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 and immediate medical attention was provided to them."
Reuters, quoting an official, reported that test results of sixteen more workers who possibly came into contact with the infected employees are expected over the next two days. "The state's policy is to not let the industry stall," P Ponniah, a bureaucrat in the Kancheepuram district where Hyundai's plant is located, said.
Both Maruti as well as Hyundai had previously informed that strict Standard Operating Procedures had been put into place at plants, workshops and at dealerships. Thermal temperature checks were conducted and this may have helped in early detection of the employees with possible symptoms of Covid-19.
Once it was confirmed that their respective employee(s) had Covid-19, both Maruti and Hyundai informed that they had undertaken a contact tracing exercise to detect other employees who may have come in close proximity to them. Both car makers have also underlined that they are providing every support necessary to the employees who have tested positive.
Automotive companies had only recently resumed operations across the country and had highlighted that precautions have been put into place to fight the pandemic. Resumption of work has been in a gradual, phased manner for most but with Covid-19 cases rising in record numbers across the country, times ahead may prove to be a bigger challenge.
India's fourth phase of lockdown - till May 31 - has brought with it several restrictions. As the number of daily tests have increased, so have the number of positive cases. On Sunday, the number of such cases stood at 138,474 which took India to the list of top-10 worst hit countries. Experts mostly agree that the next few weeks could prove to be extremely crucial in the country's battle against the pandemic.