“If there is more demand for these masks, or if anybody else outside the district wants these masks, we will be more than happy to supply,” says the Collector.
Madhya Pradesh reported its first confirmed cases of the Coronavirus earlier last week. Four people, who recently returned from Dubai and Germany, tested positive in Jabalpur. The total number of positive cases in the state as of 23 March is six.
As a consequence, the nearby district of Sagar has ramped up concrete preparations and arrangements to manage the novel COVID-19 epidemic. While many parts of the country are struggling with shortages in masks and hand sanitisers, District Collector Preeti Maithil Nayak is already ensuring that there is no such shortage in Sagar district.
“We had issued a slew of orders, aggressively sent out public advisories on washing hands and social distancing, besides following all the protocols issued by the Governments of India,” says Preeti Nayak, in a conversation with The Better India.
However, in her interactions with the general public over a week ago, the standard complaint she received was the lack of masks and hand sanitisers because many had purchased them in advance. Thus, she directed jailers at the district Central, which has an in-built handloom centre selling kurtas, saris and other clothing items, to get the inmates to manufacture cloth masks.
About a week ago, 55 prisoners of the Central Jail sitting at a reasonable distance from each other began manufacturing washable, reusable and double-layered cloth masks measuring 8 by 3 inches. Thus far, they have made nearly 10,000 masks, and set production to 1000 masks a day. The local administration is purchasing these masks from the local Red Cross branch for Rs 10 a piece.
These masks are being distributed on a priority basis to frontline health workers, doctors and the police for free. The general public, meanwhile, can purchase these masks at local shops for Rs 10 a piece, as compared to the current market price which ranges anywhere from Rs 50 to Rs 80.
“If there is more demand for these masks, or if anybody else outside the district wants these masks, we will be more than happy to ramp up production,” the Collector adds.
These prisoners are trained in operating a handloom. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, they manufactured sarees, bedsheets and kurtas, which were then sold in the local market. All the money made from the sale of these clothes is distributed among them.
Similarly, a women’s self-help group in Deori supervised by state officials working under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) began the manufacturing of these masks 10 days ago on the request of the district administration. Bought at Rs 10 a piece, more than 10,000 masks have been made by these 25 trained craftswomen, according to the Collector.
These masks are already being sold at local shops and pharmacies. They have been making over 800 masks a day.
Finally, for hand sanitisers, the district administration reached out to the owner of a local distillery in Sagar, who has agreed to manufacture large quantities for free under the provisions of corporate social responsibility.
The district Chief Medical Officer is supervising the preparation of hand sanitiser as per ingredients prescribed by the World Health Organization that includes hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and glycerol, amongst others.
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So far, the distillery has prepared 300 litres, which was sent out in cans made available by local clinics, to isolation wards, hospitals, frontline health workers and the police.
“Our hospitals, including the army hospital, are well stocked with sanitiser. Since we are not paying for hand sanitiser, we will not sell it. We will supply it very soon through our excise shops, where the general public can buy it at a subsidised rate. At the moment we are giving it to hospitals, the army medical centre, which is also setting up a massive isolation ward, and the local police as well,” informs the Collector.
Meanwhile, the local administration has already helped stock up local hospitals on disinfectants and set up additional hospital beds as well in the event the epidemic spikes.
For the time being, the district seems reasonably well prepared for COVID-19, and they have utilised public resources at their disposal to manage any possible outbreak in the district.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)