At a time when the country is struggling to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers in the fight against coronavirus, Assam has become the first state to directly import the kits from China. On Wednesday, at 8:15 pm, a cargo flight operated by Blue Dart touched down in Guwahati after flying five hours non-stop from China’s Guangzhou, carrying 50,000 PPE kits. With not many countries exporting, China has become the global point for procurement of PPE kits.
The consignment was received at the airport by Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
“The Indian government as well as many countries across the world have been procuring PPE kits from China. We are the first state government to import the kits directly from China. Even the US is procuring from China,” Mr Sarma said.
Assam had a target to keep a ready stock of 2 lakh PPE kits, sources in the health department said. Before this consignment came in, Assam had about one lakh PPE kits. In contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Assam had only 10 PPE kits.
“This has removed a big hurdle for us as we were buying PPE kits in small numbers are there was a worry about their continued availability. We will soon distribute these kits to our healthcare workers,” Mr Sarma added.
But procuring these PPE kits directly was not an easy task and many other bigger states with more resources had been struggling on this front.
Health department sources added that Assam went “out of the way” to get the kits. From turning stadiums into quarantine centres to vacating three medical colleges and turning them to COVID-19 hospitals, Assam’s innovative ideas made the state better prepared to handle the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state.
A top health department official said it was a challenging task and they never got more than a few thousand kits from Indian manufacturers.
“We wanted our heath care workers and doctors to feel safe and wanted to avoid the chaos we saw in some states over PPE kits in Assam,” the official added.
The official also said this would not have been possible without Himanta Biswa Sarma.
“Health minister started using his personal contacts. From Blue Dart to an Indian company trying to import in bulk to the Chinese authorities and getting New Delhi moving on it, Himanta Biswa Sarma was hands-on on these operations,” the official told NDTV.
Assam has 33 coronavirus cases and one death.