Coronavirus: India faces shortage of personal protective gear, Centre steps in
Coronavirus update: Textile officials said as situation evolves, so does demand. “Currently, demand is for 8 lakh bodysuits and N95 masks of the material. Orders for these have been placed,” said the official.
As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads, India is staring at an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) like hazmat suits and N95 masks. To offset this, the Centre has in the last two months worked on a slew of measures to increase reserves for government workers who are part of the efforts to curb the spread of the virus. A significant outcome is that India has started indigenous production.
Textile ministry officials said officials from health ministry contacted them about the shortage. The ministry then reached out to three international producers to acquire reserves. “In all, about 20,000 suits were taken ,” said the official.
PPE for medical workers include coverall bodysuits and N95 masks with respirators made from melt-blown material. For the general public, the masks are two or three-ply. But imports alone cannot meet demand. The ministry then roped in South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) to quality check some domestic producers, whose chairman Prakash Vasudevan said there are very few melt-blown fabric producers across the globe. “The material needs to have a high resistance to viruses, and since India has never faced such an epidemic, we did not have an indigenous effort.”
Three Indian producers were tested by SITRA on technical parameters, and supply from one of these companies have started. Officials said equipment from three more companies is currently undergoing tests.
Textile officials said as situation evolves, so does demand. “Currently, demand is for 8 lakh bodysuits and N95 masks of the material. Orders for these have been placed,” said the official.
On Thursday, the directorate general of foreign trade banned export of textile material for masks and coveralls, under the Foreign Trade (Development) and Regulation Act. The textile commissioner of Mumbai, ministry officials said, will be made the nodal authority to look at all export matters.