A worker arranges masks in a factory in Monufia, Egypt, on March 19, 2020. Egypt's largest factory of disposable medical products has more than doubled production of medical masks to meet the huge demand amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua)
by Ahmed Shafiq
MONUFIA, Egypt, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's largest factory of disposable medical products has more than doubled production of medical masks to meet the huge demand amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"We used to produce some 30-50 thousand masks a day before the coronavirus outbreak. Our daily production has now increased to some 130,000 masks," Mohammed Suleiman, manager of Medic, or Egypt for Medical Clothes Company, told Xinhua.
Located in Monufia Province, 65 km northwest of the Egyptian capital Cairo, Medic is one of the pioneer companies in the Middle East specialized in the manufacture of medical clothes such as sterile surgical gowns, patient gowns, caps, masks, overshoes and sterile medical drapes.
Inside the company's 9,000-square-meter plant, over 650 workers are racing against time to produce daily outputs of face masks that have been ordered by several clients.
"We do not export our products to other countries because we are the main supplier of the public hospitals, health ministry and the armed forces," Suleiman said as he observed workers packing new masks and prepare them to be transported to the health ministry's warehouses.
The plant's manager added that 70 percent of the company's produce goes to his permanent clients, while the remaining 30 percent go to the private sector.
Regarding the recent price hikes of medical supplies in the Egyptian market, Suleiman said prices for the company's products have recently went up by 10 percent because the consumption of electricity has increased after the factory adopted 24/7 work policy.
"We also started recently to import some fabrics by air in order to accelerate production ... this for sure costs much more than bringing them in by sea," he revealed.
Suleiman noted that 90 percent of the machines used in the factory were imported from China, pointing out that the company also "relies on China for getting spare parts."
He mentioned the factory had provided the health ministry with 350,000 masks which were later sent as a donation from Egypt to China to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The manager noted that there are around 10 factories that manufacture face masks across the country, stressing that his plant is the largest in North Africa and one of the biggest in the region.
Egypt has taken tough measures over the past weeks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases has risen to 256 with seven deaths in the country.
The measures include closing schools, suspending flights, and sterilizing means of transportation, government departments, hotels and tourist attractions.
On Tuesday, the country halted exporting face masks and all types of alcohol and alcoholic disinfectants "to meet the needs of Egyptian citizens," according to the Trade and Industry Ministry.
On Wednesday, Egypt started sterilizing hotels and places frequented by foreign tourists in the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada as the first stage of sterilizing all hotels and resorts across the country.
Earlier on Thursday, Egypt decided to shut down malls, restaurants and coffee shops from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. until March 31 to combat the spread of novel coronavirus.
"Amid these measures, we have to increase our production because the demand of our clients is high," said Edward Sobhi, manager of production planning department at Medic.
He said that the factory used to work for eight hours a day. However, the factory is working non-stop.
"We are planning to increase the number of machines to meet the demand of the market," he said, adding that the company currently has the capacity to produce 200,000 masks a day.
"By now, we have managed to overcome all logistic challenges and we are ready to double efforts to help the government fight the spread of the virus," Sobhi said.