NEW DELHI — The union government delayed framing proper guidelines and standards for the manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — meant for health workers and first responders treating coronavirus patients — in India.
The delay is one of the reasons that health workers in India are now facing a severe shortage in high quality protective suits, the convenor of the Preventive Wear Manufacturers’ Association of India Sanjeev Ralhan told HuffPost India in an interview.
In this interview, Ralhan, who has been manufacturing surgical gowns and drapes since 2002, explains that his association sought the government’s directions and guidelines on the manufacture of PPE meant for health workers treating coronavirus patients as early as the first week of February — only to be met with silence.
Since then the shortage of PPE has become an achilles heel in India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A flurry of videos on social media have shown doctors and nurses struggling to perform their duties either without the necessary protection, or wearing substandard suits. News reports in Scroll.in and on NDTV have highlighted shortcomings in the tendering and procurement process.
Ralhan says the problems go even deeper — the Modi government’s early inaction has cost vendors precious weeks in which they could have sourced raw materials and machinery. When the guidelines finally came in, the country had already been put under a lockdown making manufacture and transport a logistical nightmare. That apart, Ralhan said that the kind of suits the government wants them to manufacture are “practically impossible for us to produce under these circumstances”. Meanwhile, the desperation of health workers have led to the manufacture of sub-standard suits, which the former are being forced to use in the absence of proper gear.