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Procuring protective gear for doctors, assures government

NEW DELHI: Amid concerns and complaints of acute shortage of preventive gear for healthcare workers and ventilators for COVID-19 patients, the government, for the first time, made public the details of these supplies and said all stops are being pulled to increase their availability.

As of now, 3.34 lakh personal protective equipment (PPE) — crucial to prevent infection in healthcare workers — are available in hospitals across the country, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, while the stock of N95 masks they have is 11.95 lakh. The ministry said that 14,000 ventilators will be put aside for COVID-19 patients but did not give detail of how many ventilators hospitals in India have.
“PPEs were not being manufactured in the country. With the prospect of huge requirement of PPEs arising in near future, the Government of India made proactive efforts to promote their manufacturing in the country,” said a government statement on Monday.

“So far, 11 manufacturers have cleared the quality tests. Orders for 21 lakh PPE coveralls have been placed on them,” it added. Currently they are supplying 6-7,000 coveralls per day and this is expected to go up to 15,000 per day within next week. One more manufacturer has qualified on Monday and an order of 5 lakh coveralls has been placed with the firm.

The ministry also said that N95 masks are being manufactured by two domestic producers. “They are able to supply 50,000 masks per day at the moment, but are ramping up capacities to make 1 lakh masks per day within the next week,” it said. The DRDO is also collaborating with local manufacturers to produce about 20,000 N99 masks per day. This supply is expected to become available in a week’s time.

An additional 5 lakh masks were distributed in the past two days and 1.40 lakh masks are being distributed on Monday. Apart from this, 10 lakh masks would be part of the PPE kits being sourced from Singapore.

The ministry said less than 20 patients are on ventilator support at this moment while over 14,000 ventilators have been identified in various hospitals across the country for treatment of COVID19 patients.

A domestic manufacturer,  Agva Healthcare in Noida, has been able to develop suitable ventilators and an order of 10,000 ventilators has been placed with the firm. Supplies are expected to start by mid-April. The MEA is also approaching suppliers in China for 10,000 ventilators.