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163 apparel firms get nod to make PPEs

Workers produce face masks at KICOTEC
Workers produce face masks at KICOTEC in Kitui on April 7, 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

More than 163 manufacturers have been given green light to start producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling COVID-19.

The Ministry of industrialization says the Kenya Bureau of Standards has certified more than 100 firms to produce face masks, according to an internal memo seen by Business Daily.

Another 63 have been permitted to produce gowns that are mainly used to protect frontline health workers.

This pandemic is creating an opening for apparel manufacturers in Africa, where there is currently limited production of surgical masks, N95 masks and medical-grade gowns.

“To date, Kenya Bureau of Standards has approved and issued valid permits to 63 local manufacturers to produce protective clothing and 106 local manufacturers to produce face masks,” Industrialisation Principal Secretary Francis Owino wrote in the Memo dated 11th September.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global demand for medical masks, gloves and gowns to protect frontline health workers.

At the same time, apparel manufacturers are seeing a drop in orders for shirts, trousers, dresses, and other goods, leaving factory floors with idle sewing machines, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

By adjusting production lines and sourcing new materials, apparel makers are becoming mask and gown producers.

Kenya has a total 36, 157 confirmed infections, with 624 deaths. Kebs is also said to have withdrawn licenses of three manufacturers for making low quality masks, says the memo.

Six firms reportedly suspended production of masks voluntarily to secure the right machinery as the stated quality inspectors pushed the compliance on production of the equipment.

Two local universities are closing in on the manufacture of ventilators with Kenyatta University and Referral Hospital having been given a greenlight to carry out clinical trials at their university hospital. While the Dedan Kimathi University based in Nyeri submitted its sample for the ventilator last month.

“Dedan Kimathi University submitted the ventilator sample on August 10 for Electrical and calibration performance testing by metrology and testing team from KEBs . the team has since done the first round of tests that began on August 11, the university is undertaking corrective actions and KEBs will revisit them for calibrations,” the PS wrote in the Memo.

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