Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) wants to export personal protective equipment (PPE) meeting domestic demand as their demand is growing across the globe amid coronavirus pandemic.
"Our ultimate goal is to export PPE to the rest of the world and we want to do it very fast," BGMEA President Dr Rubana Huq told media in a message on Sunday.The apparel exporters have already extended their helping hands producing personal protective equipment (PPE) following the standard set by the government for the health professionals in the country to fight against Covid-19.
The BGMEA chief said they are already in a discussion with a coalition of ILO, WHO, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations and sought help from them to expedite the process of converting production capabilities available in Bangladesh to produce PPE.
"They will assist us with supply chain and technical knowledge sharing. This effort is ongoing," said Rubana Huq.
Currently BGMEA is planning to make at least 20,000 PPEs to be donated.
"What we are making is a substitute of Level-1 PPE," she said adding that healthcare providers who deal with coronavirus patients need Level 3/4.
Currently, it is just 100% waterproof and the design is close to a professional PPE and BGMEA 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."We are helping with whatever we have right now for the protection of our frontier health workers. 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," she said.
Rubana said currently many of BGMEA members are donating fabrics. "We are also planning to fund buying some fabrics."
She said the fabric mills who are also BGMEA members are selling the fabric below cost as a sign of solidarity.
"We will be distributing the PPE 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," she said.
Rubana said they 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," she said
The PPE suits are required not only for doctors and nurses but also all the hospital workers.
In the current situation law enforcement agencies and many other institutions are also wanting PPEs, according to BGMEA.
PPE suits are not natively made by Bangladesh garment producers.
The medical grade and WHO standard fabric has to be imported and also mainly from China.