Are PPEs the most pragmatic solution for now?
Owing to the massive blow that several industries have taken, workers have been thrown into tumultuous uncertainty regarding their livelihoods. What if the solution lies just a few pragmatic policy measures away?
A widespread reallocation of the currently idle resources to the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) could hold the answer to reviving a faltering economy while simultaneously clamping down the spread of the virus.
The flaws of the current policies
Let’s accept the fact that a prolonged shutdown of the essential secondary sectors for three months is in no way going to help us pass this pandemic, given it is likely to last for a long period of time.
Faced with the enormous uncertainty surrounding the immediate discovery of the vaccine, the government implemented a policy to partially open up markets and industries to heal the economy and stimulate economic growth.
However, this policy would have worked fine for any past recession, but the current downturn is different because, unlike a normal scenario, workers are vulnerable to the virus by opting to work. We might become better off in the short run, but at the expense of the long-run repercussions.
The marketplace before Eid was a hotspot for the transmission of the virus. Even after the lockdown and quarantine measures, the cases increased rapidly; hence, the upcoming days are bound to worsen things as we are not ready to accommodate and provide infrastructural support to our citizens.
A simple but practical policy
As the coronavirus might travel in the form of an aerosol, individuals are thus likely to be susceptible to the infection. But if we could prevent the micro-droplets from entering our body, we could fundamentally tackle the pandemic. This is the purpose that the quarantine was serving, ie preventing people from getting infected by the virus.
A prospective solution can be providing PPEs to the mass workers. A piece of equipment that can prevent the virus from entering or leaving the body is the key to the problem.
Think about it: If all workers were equipped with a suit that prevents the virus from getting inside their body and similarly prevents the virus from escaping an infected worker’s body, then we would primarily be serving the purpose of social distancing.
Rather than being immobile, the workers could attend their jobs with minimal risk of getting infected. It must be noted that the quarantine should be followed for most occupation holders who have the scope to work from home. However, factories that are essential for the economy should adopt this policy.
This new form of safety measure should run alongside other established measures like maintaining proper hygiene and limiting unnecessary visits to shops and other crowded areas.
A shift towards the usage of PPE would not only aid the government’s intent of boosting the economy but also help prevent the spread of the disease. Workers can get back to their jobs, industries would start to operate normally, and essential markets could be safe to visit given that everyone had access to PPEs.
Bangladesh is a leading garment manufacturing industry with low labour and operational costs, which makes it easier and cheaper to produce the protective suits. However, this approach requires international and public cooperation to work effectively.
Given that all the countries are now integrated more than ever, higher authorities in the country should initiate an understanding with other countries to supply and share the raw materials and skills needed for this commodity to undergo mass production.
An approach to achieve this goal
As the whole world can ramp up research on vaccines at an unprecedented pace, producing large sets of protective equipment is also achievable. This would not only create jobs in the garment industry, but would also help other industries operate during the pandemic. The government can use a part of the stimulus packages to achieve this goal.
Understandably, this initiative will put a great burden on the government. To avoid this, the government can implement a policy that requires business entities to share the economic expenses to buy/manufacture the equipment for their workers.
Given that the short-term cost to the business entities will be weighed against the long-term revenues, it is likely that they will pay for these protective gears. It is also important to mention that strict monitoring is required for this plan to succeed and investment in campaigns on the usage of PPE must be done.
A comprehensive usage guideline
It is essential the PPEs to be used are reusable. Otherwise, this proposal would not be sustainable. Hence, research on the design and material must be done to make the PPE reusable, lightweight, comfortable, and easy to clean.
A comprehensive usage guideline should be provided on how to effectively use the PPE and how to disinfect the equipment after using it. The methods of disinfection should be easy and done in the shortest time possible. These must be addressed sincerely by the authorities involved in the production; failure to do so would otherwise render the policy ineffective.
Potential challenges of the policy
The only problem with the usage of PPEs is that not everyone can afford it and the fact that it has to be supplied at a very large scale. There lies another problem of ensuring if people are following this strategy with due importance.
Another potential problem to note is that the quality of the PPE must not be compromised, otherwise, it would still hold the risk of users getting infected.
A speculative conclusion
As we all know, Covid-19 spreads like wildfire and builds up like a chain reaction; the only way to stop it is to stop this chain of getting infected. This can be done through vaccines and preventive measures only.
But unlike the intricate process of making vaccines and testing kits for the virus, mass production of PPE is much simpler and a practical solution. Hence, we have a much better chance of succeeding with this measure.
Syed Nazif Ishrak is a freelance contributor.