In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, BGMEA has come forward to provide PPE suits to healthcare personnel including doctors, nurses and hospital workers in Bangladesh. In the current situation law enforcement agencies and many other institutions are also wanting PPEs.
Currently BGMEA is making at least 20,000 PPEs for donation. What we are making is a substitute of level-1 PPE. Corona patient treating doctors and staff need level 3/4. Our product is not certified. It is just 100% waterproof and the design is close to a professional PPE. Our suits will mostly be worn by support workers and doctors who are right now scared to attend their jobs because of what is happening in the world. They expect protection for all activities, not only when treating patients with Corona symptoms.
We are helping with whatever we have right now as our frontier health workers have no protection. Our fabrication and garments already have an approval from the Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health. They have certified them as Level-1 Substitutes. Currently many of our members are donating fabrics. We are also planning to fund buying some fabrics. The fabric mills who are also our members are selling the fabric below cost in a sign of solidarity. We will be distributing the PPEs to DGHS along with other Government and Semi-Government organizations. We are also working in a coalition with other organizations and NGOs as all our goals are the same.
PPE suits are not natively made by our garment producers. The medical grade and WHO standard fabric has to be imported and also mainly from China.
Moreover, on the production side if we are to make PPE suits for medical use the factories have to be retooled with seam sealing machines along with some other specialized machinery. Sterile factory environment also has to be maintained and necessary certification and training need to be conducted. This will require at least 6 months or more for any Bangladeshi factory.
We are alternatively sourcing fabric from China which currently has a lead time of 15-20 days because of severe delays in air freight routes. As soon as we can get the certified fabric we will be switching to certified and imported fabrics for our PPE.
Our ultimate goal is to export PPEs to the rest of the world and we want to do it very fast. We are already in a discussion with a coalition of ILO, WHO, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations who we have sought help from for assistance to expedite the process of converting our production capabilities available in Bangladesh to produce PPEs. They will assist us with supply chain and technical knowledge sharing. This effort is already ongoing. With their assistance it will take the industry between six months to one year have the proper know how’s and machines and materials to produce export grade PPE.