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A Renewed Focus on Personal Protective Equipment Production in the Era of Coronavirus
COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is making its presence known in many countries around the world, and, at the time of this writing, is gaining traction. Switzerland has banned gatherings of more than 1000 people, and the Geneva International Motor Show has been canceled. Italy as well finds itself in the grips of one of the largest health crises of its time. In the so-called “red zone” in Italy, more than 50,000 people across 11 villages live under lockdown.
The UK has also been impacted by the effects of COVID-19
Understandably, people living in the countries affected by the coronavirus are seeking to protect themselves however they can. Often, this involves wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks. Paradoxically, however, much of the production of PPE takes place in China -- the nation currently hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Publications such as Wired and many others have been reporting on potential NR95 mask shortages globally, as China, a central part of the PPE supply chain, struggles to catch up with increased demand for safety masks.
And yet, production issues remain a challenge -- and not just in the PPE arena. According to a survey conducted by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, who shared the survey results via a member email, many factories are still closed in China. Impacted areas of China include Guangdong, Guizhou, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanghai, Tianjin, and the Zheijang provinces. Most survey respondents report that they expect the factories to re-open this week or next week.
A look at how COVID-19 is moving around the world
For those factories that have reopened, many were only operating at half capacity due to lack of materials, employees, or both. Once manufacturing has taken place, most survey respondents reported that they expect 2-3 week delays in shipping. Most reported this delay was due to lack of materials, but some report it was due to shipping issues and others say it was due to lack of personnel.
With regard to PPE manufacturing, the latest shortfall in surgical masks and gear has actually been a long time in the making. American companies -- such as Prestige Ameritech based in Texas -- are receiving renewed attention in international media after raising alarm bells about exactly this kind of global health scenario years ago.
PPE mass production is now more important than ever. Global economic episodes such as this remind the world of the importance of Chinese manufacturing in all aspects of our lives, and now is the time for other countries to step up and help meet the demand for masks, gloves, hazmat suits and other PPE textiles required to stop the spread of COVID-19.
To be able to produce at full capacity and meet demand, we are proud to partner with our customers to assist them in ramping up mass manufacturing for PPE. Gerber understands first hand the innate drive to assist others during this epidemic, as our own employees and their families in Italy, China and elsewhere have been impacted. Organizations such as the World Health Organization are warning governments globally about the potential shortfall of personal protective equipment, and we here at Gerber believe everyone in every country should have access to the proper PPE to combat disease. It’s crucial that the Gerber Technology network of companies and customers band together to overcome a serious health threat that could affect us all.