Indian Railways Ramps Up Production Of PPE Gear To Strengthen Defences Against Coronavirus

Indian Railways Ramps Up Production Of PPE Gear To Strengthen Defences Against CoronavirusHealthcare workers wearing PPE. (Wikimedia Commons) 
Snapshot
  • The railways has scaled up PPE kit production to protect its frontline Covid-19 workers.

Aimed at providing protection to corona warriors, the Indian Railways has ramped up manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) gowns, sanitisers, masks for its frontline staff including healthcare workers using all its resources in the times of Covid-19 pandemic.

In a record production, the railways has manufactured 1.91 lakh PPE gowns, 66.4 kilo litres of sanitiser, 7.33 lakh masks until 24 June.

Protective gear like PPE coveralls, masks, sanitisers and equipment like ventilators were in extreme short supply globally during the initial phase of Covid-19.

While PPE coverall target for the month of June and July are fixed as 1.5 lakh each,
an order for PPE coverall (22 lakh), N95 masks (22.5 lakh), hand sanitiser 500 ml (2.25 lakh) and other items was centrally placed on HLL Life Care, a PSU under the Health Ministry, to further strengthen the preparedness of the railways.

In close coordination with other ministries and state governments, the state-run transporter is fully geared up to meet the challenge of ensuring protection gear for its operational staff and medical workers, said a senior railway official involved in monitoring the requirement of PPE kits.

According to the railways, during the lockdown period, centralised procurement and distribution of the raw material and manufactured products throughout the rail network was a herculean task accomplished under testing circumstances.

All railway production units and workshops have taken up the challenge and manufactured PPE coveralls, sanitisers, masks, cots in-house. Raw material for manufacturing of these items was also procured by the field units.

Raising the bar, PPE coverall target for the month of June and July are likely to be revised upward. Northern Railway was nominated for centralised procurement of raw material required for manufacture of PPE coverall gowns, a critical component with respect to quality. All in-house manufactured products satisfy all applicable quality standards.

The railways has designated 50 Railway hospitals as Covid dedicated hospitals and Covid dedicated health centres. Facilities at these hospitals were upgraded through procurement of medical equipment and other items to meet the challenges of Covid pandemic.

In its fight against the pandemic, 5,231 coaches have already been converted to isolation wards to serve as Covid care centres to augment the capacity of health infrastructure in the country. More than 960 coaches have so far been placed in service at several locations based on the requests received from the states.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already issued guidance documents on appropriate management of suspect/confirmed cases on Railway coaches — Covid care centres.

"Railways supply chain was affected due to the pandemic but it did not impact its operations and maintenance due to operations being on the lower scale and stocks being available in our depots. Out vendors are also being supported to maintain their supply chain. Necessary instructions have also been issued to field units in this respect," said the public transporter.

The railways could also continue its required procurement due to its digital supply chain and all material required for pandemic management could be arranged.

Meanwhile, the government is considering export of PPE-coverall, it is learnt.

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Export Facilitation for PPE-Coverall”, jointly organised by Ministry of Textiles and AEPC, Nihar Ranjan Dash, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, said that the government will facilitate exports of PPE coveralls and other medical textiles, after ensuring that the need of the country for these medical supplies are adequately met through domestic production.

"PPE coveralls being medical devices are covered under regulatory conditions applicable to each destination country of exports. Hence, the intending exporters have to comply with all technical and certification requirements for each country or economic zone, as applicable. On its part, the government will provide all facilities including alignment of the domestic laboratories for international certification requirements," Dash said.

A Sakthivel, chairman, AEPC, urged the government to lift the export ban on N95 masks, PPE coveralls, and other restricted PPE items saying it is the need of the hour. A single mask manufacturing machine can produce 1 lakh pieces per day, and we have more than 200 such machines.

Therefore, N95 masks should be opened up for exports without any restrictions on quantities.

DGFT is holding discussions with the ministries of Health and Textiles to make further changes in the export policy of masks and PPEs.

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