Pedestrians wear protective masks in Khan Market, New Delhi
Pedestrians wear protective masks in Khan Market, New Delhi | PTI Photo
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Bengaluru: The Pinarayi Vijayan administration of Kerala has enlisted the help of prison inmates at Thiruvananthapuram, Viyyur and Kannur central prisons to fight the shortage of masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The first batch of 1,000 masks produced by inmates was handed over to the state government Saturday, with 5,000 others expected to be ready Sunday. 

A thousand masks were handed over to the health department Saturday and another 5,000 masks will be made available Sunday,” an official of the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office told ThePrint. 

Made by the tailoring units of the three prisons, the two-layered cotton masks are washable and thus reusable. They have been priced at Rs 15-20 apiece.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to Twitter to share the images of the blue masks that have been made by the jail inmates, with this caption: “Solving the mask shortage”. He also said the “manufacturing of masks has begun on a war footing basis”. 

The success of the initiative seems to have blurred ideological differences, with the BJP-led Karnataka government looking to follow their Left contemporaries in Kerala.

Also Read: Hours after announcement, Modi govt makes U-turn on Rs 4L ex-gratia for coronavirus deaths

To cut price rise

Along with frequent use of hand sanitisers and vigorous hand-washing, wearing masks has been suggested as a key measure to prevent coronavirus infection, which spreads through the droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Amid growing infections, consumers have been flocking to the market to purchase masks and sanitisers, leading to shortages.

This led to reports that shopkeepers in some cities were selling the essentials at two-three times their price. The central government moved in to list them under the Essential Commodities Act for a short period to mitigate any possibility of cost surges, but the state has found isolated incidents of shopkeepers selling masks over their MRP.  

The state government has issued strict instructions that the masks made by prison inmates should not be sold beyond their MRP.

Kerala has registered 19 positive cases of COVID-19 so far. Three students of the state were reported to be the first Indian patients of the infection but they have since been cured.

The suggestion to involve jail inmates in the manufacture of masks was first suggested by Kerala’s social justice department. With the approval of the health department, the idea was put into action. 

 When the suggestion was put forth, the jail inmates immediately agreed. The production has begun on a mass scale,” deputy inspector general (prisons) Santhosh Kumar told reporters in Kerala Friday. 

Daily production is expected to rise to 10,000 masks a day and this will help beat the acute shortage, said jail officials. 

Industries minister E.P. Jayarajan has said that, along with masks, there was a huge shortage of sanitisers too but it was being tackled by the Kerala government. 

The government has pressed the Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals (KSDP) to produce an additional 10 lakh bottles of hand sanitisers in the coming week, a Kerala health official said. 

Taking a cue from Kerala, Karnataka labour secretary Captain Manivannan has written to the state health department to assess if the model can be implemented in the state as well. 

Also Read: How coronavirus spread in India — 39 of the first 50 patients came from Italy, Iran, China


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  1. 1, What has the Modi administration done to protect the supply chain, as hospitals try to stock up on masks, swabs and other key materials that could quickly become hard to find? Has the Indian government put extra shifts on its manufacturing to get medical supplies out the door?

    2, Hospitals are the nation’s chief defense against the pandemic. Is there any hospital preparedness program in India to prepare its hospitals, so that they can respond to all hazards – from hurricanes to pandemics to biological attacks? Has Modi government put in place a strategic working group of Indian and international doctors, hospitals, and health organizations to focus on mass treatment capacity?

    3, Has Modi government advised Indian hospitals to postpone elective surgeries or procedures to handle the crush of Wuhan virus patients that could further the Wuhan virus spread, tax medical stockpiles and put further pressure on doctors and nurses?

    4, Has Modi government created an internet portal to help determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location for its citizens, who suspect they may have contracted the Wuhan virus. Has a web based tool developed to triage individuals for COVID-19 testing? Has any action been taken to procure the new COVID-19 detection test from the pharmaceutical company Roche, that gives test results within four hours for multiple patients?

    5, Why Modi has not videoconferenced with Indian State Chief Ministers and administrators of its territories and Medical officers? But, he has time to talk with SAARC country leaders! What do Indians get out of this meet? A videoconference with leaders of Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea would have been more helpful in getting to understand how they effectively controlled the spread of the Wuhan virus. Why MEA didn’t arrange that meeting?

    6, What has Modi government done internationally to pin down CCP for being responsible for the Wuhan outbreak? The Chinese government had the audacity to hold Indians hostage and black mailed Indian government, until they succumbed to its pressure to send a shipment of medical supplies in exchange for its citizens. Why hasn’t the MEA/ Modi taken the CCP to UN body and sought economic reparations or censure, when they have take Modi government to UNHCR or UN security council, if Indians evenfart in the direction of jihadis? While on the subject, what about China’s illegal shipment of fissile material making autoclave. Why hasn’t Modi approached NSG to remove China from its primary membership?

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