Coronavirus | Essential Medical Supplies Affected Due to Lockdown 

The lockdown is affecting medical supplies, said health ministry official and private manufacturers.

3 min read

To stop the spread of coronavirus, on Tuesday, 24 March, PM Modi announced the whole country will be under lockdown for the following 21 days. However, most parts of India were already under lockdown from 22 March.

But, have lockdowns become huge impediments in the manufacturing and supply of essential medical equipment?

The Quint spoke to several stakeholders, such as government officials and manufacturers of medical equipment, to find out the ground reality.

Personal Protective Equipment Kit comprising a mask, gloves, protective goggles and the suit that covers the whole body, made of synthetic material, is the most essential medical equipment required for doctors, nurses and paramedics to treat patients.

In a tender issued on 23 March, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare invited quotations from the medical suppliers… It mentions the quantity of medical products required by the government.

The requirements are:

  • Minimum 10 lakh Personal Protective Equipment or garment kits
  • 40 lakh N95 masks
  • 20 lakh pairs of gloves in three sizes
  • 10 lakh bottles of 500 ml hand sanitizer
  • And 2 crore surgical masks
Personal Protective Equipment can only be used once in quarantine camps because they don’t have facilities to sterlise it. Hospitals with such facilities can use the same only twice. 

‘No Raw Material Or Manpower Due to Lockdown’

A Delhi-based manufacturer told us that he got an order of 5,000 Personal Protective Equipment Kits from hospitals on 21 March but is unable to manufacture them because of logistical problems.

He said that the initial lockdown and now the curfew in Delhi has closed all means to procure raw material. His labourers are also not able come to the factory.

Now he’s busy getting curfew passes made for his people in Delhi and once that’s done, he will try to streamline the manufacturing. He added he’s not getting any assistance from the government.

‘Even Government Officials Unable to Move Supplies’

A Health Ministry official told us that despite the urgency to procure medical equipment, he hasn’t received enough support from the government to mobilise medical equipment from one state to another.

The official said for the last 24 hours, he has been trying to pick up a consignment of medical kits from Maharashtra but is unable to do so because of curfew. He said that in current situation, every minute counts.

He added that getting curfew passes for all the people involved in shifting medical equipment either within a city or from a state to another is a time-consuming job and a hurdle in the fast movement of supplies.

The first positive case of COVID-19 was reported on 30 January.

But, it seems such as the government did not get its act together till March, to ensure there’s enough supply of protective equipment for those who need it the most, ie, the health workers. There were several appeals by doctors and medics on the shortage of the same and over them putting their lives at risk while tending to the sick.

Health Ministry said they finalised the medical requirement on 2 March, based on which the tender was issued first on 5 March and revised on 23 March.

So far, six Indian manufacturers have passed the prescribed tests for medical products which is essential to get the tender. But many manufacturers who are willing to supply the product to the government are unable to function because of the lockdown.

This indicates how haphazard and disorganised the government's response has been to the pandemic.

Why didn’t the government anticipate the current situation way back in January when the virus was exploding in China, or even in February, when it was making its way across the world, and prepare for this eventuality?

With curfew and the lockdown… how does the government plan to mobilise medical kits to the doctors and paramedics fighting the good, and often dangerous, fight?

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