India will start local production of hazmat suits for healthcare workers as international suppliers run out of stock amid coronavirus outbreak. However, the government has assured there's no shortage currently.
The Union Textiles Ministry and the Health Ministry has said the government is augmenting the supplies of personal protective equipments (PPEs), including body coveralls, N-95 masks and 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks required for healthcare professionals dealing with COVID-19 cases and there is no short supply.
"So far, proto type garments of six Indian manufacturers have passed the prescribed tests conducted at the accredited laboratory of South India Textiles research association (SITRA) at Coimbatore and two more manufacturers are forthcoming as on date. In addition, more and more manufacturers have been invited to offer their prototype samples, and come forward to meet the requirement of the government," a statement said.
Reacting to reports that the government was slow in procuring materials, the government said that over the last 45 days, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Ministry of Textiles have attempted to locate adequate number of sources who can produce and supply body coveralls. Materials for body coveralls are manufactured by a few international companies, but they have expressed their inability to supply on account of shortage in stocks and ban of exports by the source countries.
Meanwhile, HLL Lifecare Limited is the designated single-window procurement agency for the hospitals and healthcare organisations under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for such items.
Both ministries also started wide outreach with related stakeholders from January 30 for indigenous manufacturing of the items. Five indigenous manufacturers came forward and offered fabric proto-types for testing at the accredited laboratory of South India Textiles research association (SITRA) at Coimbatore.
The testing was done at SITRA between February 2 and February 25. The results were then referred to medical and technical experts.
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare finalised the specifications for raw materials on March 2 based on indigenous availability, while also bearing in mind the high level of protection healthcare professionals would require. The specification was published on the official website of HLL Lifecare Ltd on March 5, inviting manufacturers having adequate capability to participate in the procurement process.
Government had issued orders banning exports of all personal protective equipment including body coveralls, N-95 masks, 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks on January 31. The ban was lifted on February 8 on request from the industry, and on the assurance that adequate supply of 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks at reasonable prices would be ensured. However, the ban was reimposed on March 19 on all 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks and the raw materials required for manufacture of such products.
Meanwhile, the private sector has come forward to help meet any shortage. Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has promised to produce 1 lakh masks per day and a large number of personal protective equipments (PPEs), including suits and garments for health workers.
RIL will also set up a 100-bed centre at Mumbai's Seven Hills Hospital in collaboration with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for patients who test positive for COVID-19.
Similarly,Mahindra Group CEO Anand Mahindra has announced the Group's factories will try to make ventilators.
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