A photographer wears a protective face mask and gloves while working, as Egypt ramps up its efforts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020. (Reuters)
Due to increased demand amid the COVID-19 crisis, Egypt is witnessing a moderate shortage in medical supplies like sanitisers and alcohol products and a serious shortage of gloves and facemasks.
Head of the medical supplies division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FECC) Mohamed Ismail revealed to Ahram Online that the domestic market has already run out of facemasks and is seeing a shortage in gloves.
Ismail said that Egypt depends mainly on China for filling its domestic needs for medical supplies due to the cheap cost, as supplies imported from China are up to 50 percent cheaper than those that are domestically produced, especially facemasks.
Ismail assured, however, that Egypt is a major producer of sanitisers and alcohol products and that the country will not run out of these supplies.
Ismail also revealed that at the time of the H1N1 viral outbreak in 2009, a total of four factories were the main producers of facemasks for the domestic market, with seven production lines producing 24 million facemasks per year. These factories stopped their operations in 2014/2015 due to economic difficulties.
However, two of the factories are working again after Egypt stopped importing medical supplies from China following the coronavirus outbreak in the Asian country.
“The two factories cannot meet the needs of the domestic market for many reasons. Besides the heavy demand on such supplies, their total production is only 50,000 face masks per day, and these masks are slated for use by the health ministry and are not headed for the commercial market,” Ismail said.
Ismail also said that contributing to the current shortage is the move by wholesalers to hand over EGP 1 million worth of facemasks to Cairo governorate in protest against what they described as mistreatment by regulatory authorities following the increased demand for masks amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Ismail explained that the only masks currently in the domestic market are those that came into the market before mid-March.
However, Ismail asserted that this situation will not last for very long, saying that Egypt will shift from being an importer of medical supplies to a major exporter within one month, without elaborating.
Regarding gloves, Ismail said that Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are Egypt’s main sources of gloves, but due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, the country has monopolised the three countries’ production lines for gloves until August.
“Egypt has contracted for new glove shipments, but these will be available in the domestic market by September,” Ismail said.