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PPE shortages: No need to fear, but use responsibly

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment while caring for patients with coronavirus infection in the Indian state of Kerala.
Hospital workers wearing PPE in Kerala. Image credit: Javed Anees / CC0

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said there is no need to panic concerning personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages in the country, but that PPE ought to be used responsibly. 

“No need to believe any rumour or have any fear regarding PPE,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the Union Health Ministry. “Our guidelines state that not only PPE should be made available, but they should be used rationally.” 

Agarwal explained that “supplies of PPEs, masks and ventilators have now begun. Twenty domestic manufacturers in India have been [developing] PPEs and orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have been placed. Supplies have begun. 49,000 ventilators have been ordered.” He added that “we have sufficient stock.” 

Agarwal sought to dispel “fear that everyone needs PPEs. Everyone does not need PPEs. A PPE is a mix of different components – like boots, N95 masks, coverall and headgear. People at high risk must use all components. For those at moderate risk masks and gloves are sufficient.” He emphasised the PPE should be used “as per requirement…as I have told you, I can use four N95 masks within a day, or I can use just one within a day.” 

He added that “while the central government is augmenting supplies to the states, we are also requesting them to use them rationally.”

The Government has sought to assuage fears over PPE shortages in the country in recent days. It has undertaken efforts to procure supplies from both domestic and foreign manufacturers. 

Of the situation concerning PPE, Agarwal informed earlier this week that the Government has “discussed this with all health secretaries, chief secretaries and DMs [district magistrates] as this is one of the major issues. We’ve explained to them that PPEs available with us have already been dispatched to states based on case-load basis. 

“We are also making an effort to see how procurement [can] be increased. It has started easing out; in coming weeks we should be able to manage these issues to a large extent.” 

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