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China faceoff unlikely to impact Covid-19 fight


NEW DELHI: The Galwan Valley faceoff with China is unlikely to affect India’s Covid-19 fight as all the essentials, from safety gears to testing products, are now being manufactured indigenously, reducing the dependence on Chinese imports to almost nil, medical experts have said.

From polyester swab sticks and viral transport medium to testing kits and personal protective equipment – India is now self-sufficient, they said.

Over the last three months, the Centre has actively encouraged companies to start manufacturing products that they had never produced before, or scale up production manifold. If the products were not made in India, the science and technology department encouraged its institutes of eminence to innovate and develop the knowhow.

“At present, almost all the equipment and smallest devices are being indigenously produced,” C V Muraleedharan, associate head, biomedical technology wing, at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, told ET. “This happened because in March, imports started drying up as countries shut down ports and airways. Also, there was a large demand for the same products and that is when there was an added thrust on indigenously developed testing kits, swab sticks, ventilators and PPEs,” he said.

From complete dependence on imports from China and Germany in March, India has moved to self-sufficiency with barely 10% of market share coming from other countries, Muraleedharan said.

Over the last three months, his institute has developed polyester swab sticks and testing kit to help in the fight against the pandemic.

Vishal G Garwe, director, R&D cell culture, at HiMedia Vitral Transport Media, said his company got a call from the Centre in March, asking it to scale up production of viral transport medium kits, which simply put is a test tube with two polyester swabs.

The company has since increased its output manifold from 5 lakh units per annum to up to 10 lakh kits per day. Garwe said. “We are no longer dependent on China. The market has enough and more indigenous manufacturers,” he said, adding that even if India scales up testing by 50% it is sufficient.

Similarly, Suparshva Swabs, maker of Tulips brand of personal hygiene products like cotton swabs and cotton pads, started making polyester swab sticks for naso-pharyngeal sample collection on government request.

“These swab sticks weren’t being made in India and we were totally dependence on China,” company co-owner Rahul Jain said. “Within three months, there has been a complete turnaround and we are self-reliant. About 80% of the market is now indigenous production,” he said.

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