MANILA, Philippines – Three weeks after Filipino health workers sounded the alarm over the shortage personal protective equipment (PPE), the government’s coronavirus task force announced that local garment factories will start producing the badly needed items for frontliners treating coronavirus patients.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the government’s task force spokesperson, gave the update on Monday, April 6, saying production was scheduled to commence “immediately” after the Holy Week or on Monday, April 13.
Nograles said the Department of Trade and Industry announced that member- companies of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) will be in charge of locally producing medical-grade PPE overalls for healthcare workers.
“Raw materials for these will be shipped in by this week and the roll out of production at the garment factories will immediately start after the Holy Week,” Nograles said in a Laging Handa briefing.
Once operational, he added garment factories will be able to produce 10,000 PPEs a day. (READ: Explainer: The PPE keeping our healthcare workers safe)
What to expect: The PPEs were developed by CONWEP and tested by the Department of Health and University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to ensure they were medical-grade and could be used in hospital settings.
The PPEs to be produced will be suited for situations where there is a high risk of exposure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This included use in operating rooms, COVID-19 positive wards, and intensive care units.
Under these circumstances, Level 4 PPEs which provide the most protection for health workers are required. This would include the following:
- Surgical cap
- N-95 mask
- Scrub suits
- Goggles/face shield
- Double gloves
- Dedicated shoes
- Shoe covers
Why this matters. For weeks now, health workers and hospitals have sounded the alarm on the dangerously low supply of PPEs which are crucial to protecting health workers treating coronavirus patients.
The effects of the lack of PPEs were felt by medical workers themselves with at least 17 doctors who died from the coronavirus due to lack of adequate protection.
Vice President Leni Robredo herself earlier launched her own campaign for the distribution and production of PPEs, tapping local designers and cloth suppliers. Last week, the Vice President’s office and fashion designers created an open-source protective suit design.
Until the DOH itself ordered some 1 million PPEs, hospitals have mainly relied on donations from the public to supply doctors and nurses with the badly needed resource.
With local production to begin soon, health workers are assured of a more steady supply of PPEs, rather than relying on dwindling global supply.
Other measures taken: Aside from this, Nograles said the government is also stockpiling N95 and surgical face masks for the use of health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The measures comes as the government has required Luzon residents to wear face masks when leaving their homes to work or purchase essential goods.
One concern with recommending the widespread use of masks is that such measures can cause a shortage of the commodity already lacking and needed most for health workers.
The government’s task force urged the public to use improvised face masks like handkerchiefs or do-it-yourself face masks and shields so as not to draw from supplies needed for health workers.