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PPE production soars but issues remain

To meet the demand during the COVID-19 health crisis, the global textile industry has contributed a surplus production of personal protective equipment (PPE) but complaints from users over quality and distribution persist.

For the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the world is moving to functional fashion and protective clothing. Every textile making country is trying hard to meet the global demand for protective clothing and as a result, the production is higher but the quality and distribution remain as issues of concern.

Figure: NHS nurses wait for the next patient at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Wolverhampton. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Figure: NHS nurses wait for the next patient at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Wolverhampton.Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

After China, India has emerged as the world’s second-largest manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE) in just two months amid a concerted push to ramp up production to ensure self-sufficiency in this critical domain, India Today reported.

The country now seeks to become an exporter of PPE kits as soon as the domestic demand is met. So far 80 lakh Made-in-India PPE suits have been delivered to medical professionals and 1.5 crores more are on the way.

Bangladesh has started exploring destinations for exporting globally-certified PPE in a bid to help the world fight against the novel coronavirus and has achieved a new milestone by exporting 6.5 million PPE gowns to US brand Hanes.

Indonesia now has the monthly capacity to produce 394.82 million surgical masks, an increase from just 150 million masks prior to the pandemic. As a result, the Industry Ministry data project a surplus of almost 2 billion surgical masks by the end of the year.

“The textile industry was trying to sustain its factories by diversifying its products, which include surgical masks, cloth masks and coveralls. It led to significant growth of PPE production,” Indonesian Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang said during an online discussion.

Despite the industry’s success in avoiding PPE shortages, many health workers are complaining about the quality of PPE. One NHS Tayside employee, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the Tele expressing fears that PPE supplied by the health board is not robust enough to effectively protect staff.

“The current masks we have are so thin, you can blow a lighter out through them,” she explained.

Despite assurances that all the equipment supplied by the health board complies with guidelines, employees have been left wondering how effective it is in keeping them safe from Covid-19.

The Canadian government ordered about 150 million N95 masks, those used by medical professionals and other front-line workers but as the Globe and Mail reported in May, the government was forced to cancel orders of roughly 50 million masks last month due to quality concerns. The cancel orders include the delivery of 9.8 million substandard masks from a Chinese manufacturer supplied by a Montreal-based company.

To date, the government has received 11.9 million N95 masks, of which just two million meet quality standards.

“While the majority of the products have already passed the medical standards, many doctors are complaining that the coveralls are too heavy and uncomfortable.” Indonesian Health Ministry crisis center head Budi Sylvana said during the same discussion.

“There is a lack of knowledge on how to produce PPEs which provide a protective barrier as well as comfort. If these are uncomfortable then it is supposed to be non-compliance to Safe Infection Control Practices.,” said Sanjiiv, Chairman of the Preventive Wear Manufacturer Association of India.

He added, that the NCDC should come forward to start awareness campaigns on “How to choose the right PPE, safe removal practices, due diligence of quality for HCWs.”

As there was an immediate demand, many manufacturers rushed in to fill the glut in the market. But not everyone had the right specifications, and a PPE kit needs to be precise. “Many manufacturers were mixing and matching items to cut cost,” says Abhilash Nair, a project manager and volunteer for Covidindia.org.

Sylvana added that many small hospitals and clinics also refused to use washable PPE and preferred instead to purchase disposable products, as they did not have the systems in place to disinfect PPE.

“There are cases of COVID-19 infection among medical workers that are caused by unsterile PPE. Not all hospitals have the ability to sterilize the PPE correctly,” he said.

Though there are many to supply protective clothing to meet the global demand, on-time shipment and distribution is another important issue. Therefore, the oversupply condition must be addressed with the right policy to capitalize on the huge export potential for PPE.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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