Coronavirus update: Centre to import 1 million masks; local firms will make PPE kits

Updated on Mar 29, 2020 05:11 AM IST

India needs around 38 million masks and 6.2 million pieces of PPE to take care of Covid-19 patients, a Reuters report said quoting an internal report from Invest India.

Members of self help group -- Sakhi Mandal stich protective masks amid rising coronavirus concerns, at Jharkhand Rural development training centre in Ranchi.(Diwakar Prasad/HT Photo)
Members of self help group -- Sakhi Mandal stich protective masks amid rising coronavirus concerns, at Jharkhand Rural development training centre in Ranchi.(Diwakar Prasad/HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The Centre announced on Saturday it will procure a million masks from other countries as it moved to urgently plug the shortfall in equipment for medical professionals fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The government has also been in talks with Indian companies for manufacturing more Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as coveralls, goggles, gloves and masks, used by medical staff to protect themselves while performing Covid-19 tests or treating patients.

“There is a shortage already, which will escalate if the numbers rise substantially. The ministry of external affairs will reach out to all countries and all manufacturers to try and procure 10 lakh PPE kits. Most of our PPE kits are imported and hospitals had routine supply but nobody in the world had anticipated such an outbreak,” said a senior official from the health ministry on condition of anonymity.

India needs around 38 million masks and 6.2 million pieces of PPE to take care of Covid-19 patients, a Reuters report said quoting an internal report from Invest India. Invest India said it contacted 730 companies for ventilators, ICU monitors, protective equipment, of which 319 firms had responded so far.

The order for new masks came on a day the number of Covid-19 cases shot past 1,000 even as many doctors complained that a shortage of PPE was hampering their efforts. “Earlier we needed very few of these kits to do H1N1 testing, now that the requirement for PPE has gone up and the availability is low. I am not able to procure PPE needed to do the tests,” said Dr Navin Dang, founder chairman of Dr Dang’s Labs.

Resident doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi have written to the administration about a shortage. “We have pointed out to the administration several times that there is a shortage of PPE in the hospital. We keep getting reassurances... But, the fact is that there is a shortage in the market,” said Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T, general secretary of the resident doctors’ association of AIIMS.

“At present, the doctors are wearing the HIV kits, which are not adequate as it does not cover the whole body. They use an N-95 mask, a scarf to cover the head and a towel to cover the neck along with the HIV kits. When the swab samples are collected from the back of the throat, people gag and cough, this is ejected onto the person taking the sample. Hence, adequate protection is needed.”

“Several companies are responding to our calls for PPE procurement, however, the ministry guidelines clearly state that the material should be such that blood and other secretions do not enter. But the ones that we have tested with water so far are not equipped to protect against moisture,” said Dr JC Passey, director of Lok Nayak hospital in Delhi, which is handling six positive Covid-19 cases.

The government is also in talks with Indian manufacturers for making quality kits.

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