Anutin trumpets locally made recycled plastic PPE for medics
Front-line medical workers in Thailand will wear reusable isolation gowns made of recycled plastic drinking water bottles, as Thailand gears up for a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections.
The first batch of 44,000 reusable isolation gowns -- made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) -- will be handed to medical workers by the end of this month, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
These locally produced gowns, which can be reused 20 times, will enable the health care system to cope with what may be a protracted pandemic, Mr Anutin told the media on Friday. They also free Thai medical workers from dependence on imported gear.
"The amazing thing about these gowns is that local manufacturers can produce them at a reasonable cost to meet internationally acceptable standards," Mr Anutin said.
The ministry decided in March to purchase the multi-purpose gowns at a cost of 500 baht apiece.
Health workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when collecting tissue and saliva samples from suspected Covid-19 patients. All the gear must be made of non-permeable materials to provide protection against the risk of infection.
With an effective vaccine expected to be more than a year away, the ministry estimates it might require as many as 20 million isolation gowns in the meantime.
Although imported gowns can be cheaper, they cannot be reused, so these recycled plastic versions will prove more cost-effective, Mr Anutin said.
The design has been approved by the ministry's Food and Drug Administration.
Pongsak Assakul, of the Thailand Textile Institute, said the country now has a chance to become a leader in manufacturing textiles for PPE.
"But to achieve that, the industry needs support from the government," said Mr Pongsak, adding that potential clients from the United States and the EU have already shown an interest.