While the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is spreading fast globally and India is also facing a possible outbreak, there is some good news to pacify the nerves - India has a huge spare capacity to make enough gloves, coveralls (a one-piece protective garment), and masks in case of an emergency.
As per the data collected by the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD), the umbrella association of Indian manufacturers of medical devices, 20 out of the 22 manufacturers of masks and coveralls informed that they have a capacity of 222.5 million pieces of three-layer masks per annum, 15.6 million two-layer masks per annum and 3.7 million pieces per annum of coveralls.
These domestic manufacturers have a spare capacity to make an additional 55 million pieces per annum of three-layer masks and 7.2 million pieces per annum of two-layer masks.
Out of the 30 manufacturers of gloves, 11 manufacturers informed they together have a capacity of 1.7 billion pieces, with 18 per cent spare capacity (300 million). Of the current production of 1.7 billion pieces, 44 per cent or 753 million pieces are exports. The current Indian market for gloves are estimated to be over four billion pieces, of which half are surgical gloves and 45 per cent are examination gloves. Latex free nitrile gloves, generally used in the food industry, constitute about 5 per cent and there are only 4-5 manufacturers with limited capacities, Rajiv Nath, joint managing director of Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices and Forum Coordinator of AiMeD exclusively told Business Today.
He said India imports about 1.8 billion examination gloves from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and China. Due to the inability of the domestic manufacturers to compete with cheap imports from these countries, most manufacturers have huge idle capacities.
"In the case of an emergency, in addition to over 5.5 lakh pieces of masks being sold daily, another two lakh pieces per day can be easily supplied by the Indian manufacturers. The spare capacity is huge in the sector as most manufacturers were finding it difficult to compete with the Chinese in the international markets," said Rajiv Nath.
Although the Ministry of Health has asked the manufacturers about their manufacturing capabilities, firm orders are yet to be placed to increase the production, said sources.
Meanwhile, the government in Delhi on Saturday set up a round-the-clock National Centre for Disease Control Call Centre (+91-11-23978046) to attend to public queries. The Central government has come up with a travel advisory and guidelines for meeting any emergency. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has also approved the 'restricted use' of a combination of drugs used widely for controlling HIV infection in public health emergency for treating those affected by novel coronavirus (nCoV). While three confirmed cases are undergoing treatment in Kerala, news reports today said three more persons, suspected to have contracted the coronavirus, have been admitted to government hospitals in Balrampur, Agra and Gonda districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), suspected to have originated from a market in Wuhan, China, has now spread to 28 countries and territories worldwide, with 28,276 confirmed cases and 565 deaths.