The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is planning to make at least 20,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) suits to give to physicians and other support staff.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq said this in a statement on Sunday.
"Our suits will mostly be worn by doctors and support staff who are currently afraid to do their jobs because of what is happening across the world," she said.
They expect protection for all of their activities – not only when they treat patients with corona symptoms.
"We are helping our frontline healthcare workers with whatever we have right now," she added.
"What we are making is a substitute for level-1 PPE for them. Our product is not certified. It is just 100 percent waterproof, and the design is close to that of professional PPE."
"We are also alternatively sourcing fabric from China – which currently has a lead time of 15-20 days because of long delays on air freight routes.
As soon as we can get the certified fabric we will switch to certified and imported fabrics for our PPE," she added.
With Covid-19 cases escalating in Bangladesh, there is a shortage of PPE suits. Doctors, nurses and hospital workers all require it. In the current situation, law enforcement agencies and many other institutions also need it to safeguard their health.
"Our fabrication and garments factories have already been approved by the Director General of Health Services and the Ministry of Health to make PPE. They have been certified as substitutes for level 1," Rubana said.
PPE suits are not usually made by local garment producers. Medical-grade and World Health Organization (WHO)-standard fabrics must be imported, mainly from China, to produce PPE.
"Moreover, on the production side, if we are to make PPE suits for medical use, the factories must be retooled with seam sealing machines – along with some other specialised machinery."
A sterile factory environment must also be maintained, plus necessary certification and training are needed.
All of this will require at least six months, or more, for Bangladeshi factories to produce PPE, she pointed out.
"Currently, many of our members are donating fabric. We are also planning to buy some fabric. The fabric mills that are also our members are selling fabric at a low cost as a gesture of their solidarity."
"We will distribute PPE suits to the DGHS and other government and semi-government organisations," the BGMEA president said.
"Our ultimate goal is to export PPE to the rest of the world and we want to do it very fast.
We are already in discussions with a coalition of the ILO [International Labour Organization], WHO, WFP [World Food Programme], UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] and other organisations – for their assistance – so that we can gain the capabilities of producing PPE in the shortest possible time" she said.
"They will assist us with the supply chain and technical knowledge," she added.