New Delhi: India is all set to dispatch emergency supplies of medical protective equipment such as masks, gloves, face shields, head and boot covers to coronavirus-hit China.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering India’s assistance to China besides conveying condolences over the loss of lives due to the deadly disease, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Department of Pharmaceuticals under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, and the Ministry of External Affairs have come together to decide and procure the items for the early dispatch.
“We will be sending the protective gear including a variety of surgical and non-surgical masks, inspection gloves, shoes and head covers, face shield among a few more items,” a senior official, who was part of the meeting, told ThePrint.
“The ministries have been asked to dispatch the products within the next 4-5 days. To achieve that, we have started discussions with the manufacturers and each product will be procured as per the government purchase protocols. We will purchase from the manufacturers on their standard prices.”
Govt readies list of available items for emergency dispatch
After PM Modi’s letter to President Xi on Sunday, the government Monday approached the manufacturers of medical devices to start the procurement process.
The government has asked the manufacturers to update the list of available products for immediate delivery. “We have asked for the readily available products in the market for the emergency supply to China. As soon as we get the latest data, we will be able to estimate the actual units India can deliver,” said the official quoted above.
The government has also reached out to the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMED), the lobby of domestic medical device makers. “The government has asked us to provide a list of suppliers, their capacities, prices of certain devices and ready stock availability for procurement,” confirmed Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator, AiMED.
Shooting prices of medical devices
The government has set aside the ban on the export of “personal protection equipment” imposed on 1 February to save the gear for the country’s domestic consumption.
“After understanding our large capacities for producing standard masks and gloves among other things the government has got the confidence to revoke the export ban,” Nath said. However, the high quality inspection gloves and face shields are mostly imported by sellers in India and then sold under their brand names.
Meanwhile, the prices of these devices have already started shooting. “As we initiated the discussions on purchase of equipment, the industry has escalated the prices by four times,” said the official.
Nath confirmed that prices of medical devices have been going up due to increased demand and hoarding due to the export ban. “With lift in ban, hopefully, now the hoarding will stop. The prices of some devices are going up due to spike in demand as the government initiated the discussions. However, manufacturers are not playing with prices but wholesalers and traders are.”