While COVID-19 is on the verge of entering into a community spread mode, Centre has started all out measures to ensure adequate protective equipment and masks are available for healthcare professionals and associated workforce present on the front lines.
"So far we have already distributed over one lakh personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and seven lakh plus CVN95 masks with respiratory valves. War-footing efforts are on to ensure whatever produced in the day at any of the designated manufacturing units in the country are supplied to the nearest region", top level sources at HLL Lifecare Ltd told Business Today. The company is designated single-window procurement agency for hospitals and healthcare organisations under Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
HLL Lifecare sources said as of now plans are to procure 40-50 lakh N95 masks, 20 lakh nitrile gloves (sizes 6.5 and 7), 10-15 lakh personal protective garments with tape from head to ankle with separate boot legging with tape, 10-15 lakh protective goggles, 2 crore 3-ply surgical masks, 20 lakh hand sanitisers (500ml each), and 10 lakh Viral Transport Medium (VTM Kit). Of this, each PPE costs around Rs 666, and each VTM kit is about Rs 7,434, including GST.
A source said the government, which could not find international manufacturers for PPEs and other emergency kits, has today again floated a new global tender. Efforts are also on to co-ordinate with various embassies abroad to identify and rope in manufacturers and suppliers. There are potential manufacturers in countries safe from coronavirus, like Bangladesh. The global tender will be finalised on April 15.
Another reliable source said about ten manufacturers have been roped in so far to make PPEs and negotiations are on with leading global manufacturers like Dupont, Venus and 3M. Earlier, the stipulation was that the manufacturers have to get technical clearance from the South India Textile Research Association(SITRA). Though there was no response from global companies, 6-8 local manufacturers had sent fabric prototypes, which were tested at SITRA between February 2 and February 25. Results of the tests were then referred to technical experts for decision on technical requirements for COVID-19.
"This clause of clearance from SITRA has been relaxed and the government is ready to welcome anyone with capabilities from any part of the world", the source said, requesting anonymity.
The HLL sources said about 70 senior officers of the company are working round the clock for the past two weeks in different parts of the country to ensure supplies. "The lockdown in various states is an issue, but we are working overtime to solve the logistics and manufacturing issues," he said. HLL has opened a 24-hour 'Emergency Procurement and Response Team' at Thiruvanathapuram (0471-2358992, 2354712) to answer queries and co-ordinate emergency supplies. Another similar cell is working from 8AM to 8PM at Nirman Bhavan in New Delhi, which can be contacted on 011-23061309.
Reacting to reports that procurement of materials was slow, government clarified that over the last 45 days, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Textiles are attempting to locate adequate number of sources who can produce and supply the requirement of body coveralls. During the last week of January 2020, the technical standard for the coveralls was prescribed as per WHO class-3 exposure pressure in accordance with ISO 16003 or its equivalent. Such materials are manufactured by a few international companies, who expressed their inability to supply on account of a complete glut in stocks and ban of exports by the source countries.