Indonesian manufacturers step up as G20 nations coordinate global medical supply

27 March, 2020 | Source: The Jakarta Post

Indonesia is set to support manufacturers with the capacity to produce the desperately needed protective gear, test kits and ventilators that are crucial in the worldwide global fight against COVID-19 as G20 nations pledge to focus on saving lives.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said on Thursday that the government would identify such companies and "see to their needs" for raw materials and other requirements in order to increase their production capacity and restore the supply chain. Globally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank will prioritize support for companies that can supply such medical equipment.

"The focus of [G20] leaders is saving human lives because this is not only a health problem but also a tragedy for humanity," Sri Mulyani told a teleconferenced media briefing after a virtual extraordinary G20 Leaders′ Summit on Thursday evening Jakarta time. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Sri Mulyani represented Indonesia in the meeting.

Indonesia′s latest move is intended to help Indonesia’s health workers, doctors and nurses who have been treating COVID-19 cases since mid-February despite many of them having inadequate protection. The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) announced over the weekend that five doctors had died of the illness, in addition to a nurse who died of COVID-19 on March 12.

In the broader context, every country has experienced scarcities in medical equipment like test kits, protective gear and ventilators, whether they were in Europe, Indonesia or the United States, Sri Mulyani said.

Following such an appeal, Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed a commitment to ramping up its production capacity for medical equipment. He also offered G20 countries knowledge-sharing and experience in handling domestic production amid supply chain disruption.

The Trade Ministry issued a regulation on Tuesday to temporarily scrap all requirements for importing protective gear and medical equipment to reverse the shortages of such items in Indonesia.

Carmakers around the world are shifting gear to producing hospital ventilators and respirators to combat the novel coronavirus using 3D printing. Ford, General Motors, Ferrari and Nissan have been listed, on top of General Electrics and 3M Co.

"Indonesia could also have a chance [to produce more medical equipment] because Indonesia has the capacity to supply protective gear, hand sanitizers and so forth," she said.

One Indonesia-based start-up called Nusantics is preparing to make 100,000 COVID-19 test kits. A prototype will be complete within three weeks, according to the company’s investor East Ventures. 

“Right now, it is difficult to get tested for the coronavirus as it keeps spreading throughout the nation,” East Ventures cofounder and managing partner Willson Cuaca told The Jakarta Post. “That is why we want to help the start-up achieve this goal.”

Textile factories in Indonesia are switching their production lines to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel, including mass-producing masks and protective coveralls. Members of the Indonesian Textile Association (API) have committed to producing 1 million washable masks, according to PT Pan Brothers deputy CEO Anne Patricia Sutanto.

“The workers were initially flabbergasted by our decision. They asked me ‘Bu, we are a garment exporting company, how can we produce masks and coveralls?’ but I told them this is a humanitarian emergency and we did it,” she told the Post on Thursday.

Textile company PT Sri Rejeki Isman (Sritex) started to produce coveralls for medical workers in late January and started delivering the products in the first week of February, the company’s spokesperson Joy Citra Dewi said.

“We use a specified waterproof and antimicrobial material that we’ve developed for the PPE,” Joy told the Post in a written statement, while declining to disclose the number of coveralls produced by the company.

Meanwhile, Pan Brothers has agreed to produce 20 million washable masks and 100,000 jumpsuits by April, which have been ordered by the government and retailers as demand for PPE skyrocketed.

The Trade Ministry had previously banned the export of face masks, hand sanitizer, protective medical gear and raw materials through Trade Ministry Regulation No. 23/20020 to ensure a sufficient domestic supply.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the G20 to seek support for boosting funding and production of PPE for health workers amid the global shortage, urging nations to remove export bans.

"We have a global responsibility as humanity and especially those countries like the G20," Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday. "They should be able to support countries all over the world."

The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia quadrupled within a week, jumping from 172 positive diagnoses on March 17 to 893 on Wednesday. The number of deaths was 78, with the disease spreading to at least 27 of the country′s 34 provinces. Globally, the pneumonia-like illness has infected more than 537,000 people with over 24,000 deaths.



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