By Isla Binnie
MADRID (Reuters) – A factory in northern Spain that makes gearboxes for wind turbines welcomed back workers on Monday after a two-week lockdown across the country to halt the spread of coronavirus — but only after they’d shown their temperatures were normal.
Elisa Grana, who works at the Siemens Gamesa plant in Lerma, said she also had to answer questions about potential exposure to the virus. Once inside, “there are more masks and face screens now” than before Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a halt to all work deemed non-essential on March 29.
Other sectors stirred too, although Spain’s main business lobby CEOE warned that many small and medium-sized companies do not have access to the equipment needed to guarantee the safety of their staff.
At Inditex’s 10 logistics centres, from which the fashion giant sends garments to its stores worldwide, activity was less than half its normal level. Just three of Inditex’s 13 Spanish factories are back at work, mostly making scrubs for hospitals.
Many businesses remain closed and people stuck at home as Spain battles one of the worst outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. The pandemic is expected to cause a severe global recession.
Industrial conglomerate Ferrovial <FER.MC>, 16,000 of whose employees kept cleaning and maintaining hospitals and ambulances during the broader shutdown, will reopen its construction business on Tuesday.
It has adjusted shift rotas and provided specific clothing, a spokesman said, “but ultimately it is the worker’s responsibility to maintain distance”.
Oil and gas firm Repsol’s core business also kept running during the lockdown, but it paused construction of renewable energy plants.
Technicians returning to a wind farm in the northeastern region of Aragon were given masks that must be worn at any time there is another person present, a spokesman said.
Clara Fernandez, spokeswoman for labour union CCOO, said Siemens Gamesa had agreed to carry out antibody tests on all its employees once the kit is available, and had already tested around 100.
The Lerma plant was one of six reopened on Monday and activity will resume at another six on Tuesday, a company spokeswoman said.
Germany’s Volkswagen has said it will partially reopen its plant in Spain’s Navarra region on April 20 and ramp up shifts if the supply chain is working. It will supply masks and gloves to 4,800 workers producing the Polo and T-Cross models.
But assembly lines at VW-owned SEAT still stand silent.
Restarting was not right “from the point of view of the health and safety of employees and suppliers as well as dealers, which remain closed”, a SEAT spokesman said.
(Additional reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Catherine Evans)