India is now making a substantial number of essential medical supplies such as personal protection equipment (PPE), N95 masks and ventilators, the central government said today.
Medical professionals in India were hit by a dangerous shortage of PPE kits and N95 masks till about two weeks ago, leading to at least some nurses taking to social media to complain of being forced to work under dangerous conditions without proper equipment.
The shortage was caused by India’s dependence on countries such as China for supplying such items. China was under a prolonged lock-down due to Coronavirus infection in the country. Besides, whatever little was being produced was being snapped up by countries such as the US which were paying ‘double’ the usual rates.
In this situation, the Indian government got in touch with several Indian manufacturing companies and asked them to produce PPE kits, masks and ventilators.
“The domestic manufactures which have been identified earlier have already started the production of PPEs, masks etc., and adequate quantity of the same is available,” the ministry said today. “As on date, more than 1 lakh PPEs and N95 masks are being manufactured everyday in the country.”
PPE kits, including gloves, coveralls and N95 masks, are not meant for re-use. Nurses, doctors and other medical personnel who tend to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients must change these after every shift.
Given that there are well above 10 lakh people with suspected COVID-19 in quarantine and over 18,000 confirmed cases under treatment at hospitals, the per-day requirement of these kits and masks is already likely to be above 1 lakh.
If the number of suspected and confirmed Coronavirus cases go up further, so will the requirement for these goods.
For now, however, India is yet to see the kind of sharp increase in COVID-19 cases witnessed in places like Italy, Spain and New York. In each of these places, doctors and nurses were forced to reuse PPE kits multiple times, increasing the chance that they might have got infected themselves and also passed on the infection from one patient to another due to contaminated coverings.
The ministry said 104 companies in India are currently making PPE, while three are making N95 masks.
“In addition, production of ventilators vide domestic manufacturers has also started and orders have been placed for more than 59,000 units through nine manufacturers,” it said.
The food ministry also informed the government today that Food Corporation of India, the central agency in charge of maintaining India’s buffer food stock, has started giving food grains to thousands of NGOs at very low prices.
This is being done under a new program under which the food grain will be distributed by these NGOs to migrant workers.
The government came up with the scheme as an easier option compared to using government officials for distributing food grains to migrant workers.
The ministry said that, as of today, 92,000 NGOs, self-help groups and civil society organisations are providing food to migrant workers in its records.
“These NGOs are supported by the States by allotting fund from SDRF funds and by FCI who is providing the foodgrains at subsidized cost,” it said.
No mention was made about any safeguards have been put in place to see if the all the money and foodgrain given to these NGOs are reaching migrant workers or not.
Many such relief and welfare schemes often attract the attention of fake NGOs and other unscrupulous elements who see them as an opportunity to make money.