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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Protective gear delivered to medical workers to alleviate scarcity

  • Suherdjoko and Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 25, 2020   /   05:56 pm
COVID-19: Protective gear delivered to medical workers to alleviate scarcity Workers sew hazardous material suits to be used in the fight against COVID-19 at the Zhejiang Ugly Duck Industry garment factory in Wenzhou on Friday. The coronavirus outbreak in China has prevented clothing manufacturer Ugly Duck Industry from resuming its normal production of winter coats, so it has pivoted to another in-demand product: hazmat suits. (AFP/Noel Celis )

Indonesian companies have been working to make up for the shortage of protective health equipment for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients.

Indonesian Textile Association (API) deputy chairman Anne Patricia Sutanto said on Monday that the members of the association were ready to produce more protective gear and masks to fulfill the high demand.

Some textile companies have already switched to producing masks and protective gear. Even though the products have yet to be medically certified, Anne said that all members of the API had ensured their quality.

“The product is waterproof, windproof, antivirus and antibacterial. It’s better than a raincoat,” she said.

The association has been working with the Indonesian Filament Yarn and Fiber Producers Association (APSyFI) to source the chemical materials needed to make the suit antiviral and antibacterial.

APSyFI head Ravi Shankar said the material needed to produce masks and protective gear was available in the country. “[Indonesia is] able to produce antimicrobial suits with water-repellant coating and medical-grade fiber. We’re waiting for [the fiber] to get tested and approved,” he said.

On Monday, Indonesia received thousands of medical supplies from China. They were transported from Shanghai on a military aircraft that landed at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the government has distributed about 40,000 pieces of protective equipment to the Jakarta administration and another 100,000 to regions in Java and Bali.

The Central Java administration has independently produced its own hazmat suits for certain medical personnel.

Using spunbonded polypropylene, the Moewardi General Hospital in Surakarta says it is able to produce 200 to 250 hazmat suits each day.

Civil society groups have used digital crowdfunding for the purchase of protective health equipment for medical personnel.

As of Monday, crowdfunding platform Kitabisa had recorded a total of 513 campaigns for COVID-19 mitigation initiated by public figures, NGOs and members of the general public, with total donations amounting to Rp 24 billion (US$1.4 million), Kitabisa spokesperson Fara Devara said.

Since mid-February, Indonesia’s health workers, doctors and nurses have been working overtime to treat COVID-19 cases despite many of them having inadequate protection. Many of the medical workers wore only plastic raincoats modified to approximate hazmat suits.

Even after the efforts of various stakeholders, protective equipment is still not evenly distributed. Twitter user @is_pelssy posted pictures on Tuesday of medical workers at the Masohi General Hospital in Central Maluku Regency – which treats people under general monitoring for COVID-19 – wearing makeshift protective gear.

“It’s sad to see [these medical workers] wearing only raincoats and duct tape,” he said.

Another Twitter user @andinadwifatma posted on Monday afternoon a picture of her 62-year-old mother, a pediatrician in Jakarta, reporting for duty wearing a raincoat.

“She has refused to see her family for a week [to protect them from potential coronavirus infection]. We only communicate through video calls. Sending love and my respect to all health workers,” she wrote.

However, she tweeted again on Monday night saying that her mother had finally received the proper protective health equipment.


@is_pellssy and @andinadwifatma were two of many who posted pictures of medical workers wearing raincoats. Also circulating on social media were posters of hospitals and community health centers (puskesmas) looking for aid to alleviate a shortage of protective gear.

Twitter user @cunggun wrote that the Ibnu Sina Private Hospital in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, was lacking protective gear and that medical personnel had to handle patients while wearing raincoats.

A medical worker from the hospital who refused to give her name confirmed that the facility lacked standard protective gear and that she wore only a raincoat and a surgical mask.

“Surgical masks are reserved for those who work in the emergency unit. The rest of us wear only fabric masks. The local health agency has yet to distribute the protective gear,” she said.

Some medical workers have fallen victim to COVID-19. The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) announced over the weekend that five doctors had died of the illness. In addition, a nurse died of the virus on March 12.

Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI) chairman Harif Fadhillah said nurses across the country had expressed concern about working without proper protection while handling patients with COVID-19. (aly)