As humidity rises, frontline workers to get 2,000 ‘breathable’ PPE kits
The physical challenges of using conventional PPE kits — which do not have any ventilation — in this sweltering heat has forced field staff to rely on more skeletal means of protection, namely gloves, face shields and three-ply masks.Updated: Jul 13, 2020 07:18 IST
The Gurugram district administration has placed an order for 2,000 ‘breathable’ personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, which are expected to arrive within the next two to three days.
The new PPE kits, officials said, will spell relief for lab technicians and field staff , who at present drape deeply uncomfortable normal coveralls while they are on the field. Officials also insisted that an alternative solution to protect frontline workers was needed soon.
The physical challenges of using conventional PPE kits — which do not have any ventilation — in this sweltering heat has forced field staff to rely on more skeletal means of protection, namely gloves, face shields and three-ply masks. “It is quite hard to work when you are wearing a full PPE suit. These days the weather has also become so humid. It slows you down so much, but we have no other choice,” said a lab technician at an antigen camp near Dundahera on Sunday.
As per IMD data, average relative humidity in Gurugram rose from about 50% in May to between about 70% throughout the month of June. At present, maximum humidity (recorded at 8:30am) is in the range of 80-85% while minimum humidity (recorded at 5:30pm) is in the region of 60-65%. As the monsoon progresses, these numbers are expected to rise, creating difficult conditions for workers until the summer heat tapers off.
On July 12, the maximum humidity was 84% while minimum stood at 62%. Maximum temperature was 35 degrees Celsius, and is expected to touch 37 Celsius toward the end of the week, according to IMD’s forecast for Gurugram.
Another lab technician who has been employed with the district health department since 2011, said, “Masks and gloves are adequate for personal use. But for frontline workers, where there is a much higher risk of exposure, it is not enough. On the other hand, wearing the PPE kit is impossible because it causes dehydration and leaves you extremely drained. There have been multiple instances since April when our own technicians have tested positive for Covid-19.”
According to state health department data, frontline workers accounted for at least 12 percent of reported infections in Haryana, till June 28.
Dr Jai Prakash Sharma, district surveillance officer, Gurugram, said, “The health department, through the deputy commissioner’s office, has requisitioned 2,000 units of ‘breathable’ PPE kits that will be made mandatory for all field staff. These kits will be both hydrophobic (water-repellent) as well as ventilated. The issue is that with Covid-19, transmission happens through water droplets, so PPE kits need to completely impermeable. But this makes them much more hotter to work in.”
However, health department officials said that as PPE manufacturing in India has gone up in the last three months, vendors have also begun to offer various design related solutions, to improve conditions for frontline workers. “We have sourced a PPE kit which provides a high degree of breath-ability as well as resistance to fluids. While these suits may not be used in a hospital setting, they should be adequate for field use,” district surveillance officer Sharma added.
“It is an important step that we are taking for our staff. If one of them contracts the illness, it slows down our work . The kits will arrive early next week and will be distributed among lab technicians and surveillance staff,” said Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer, Gurugram.