Sarah Twomey – Emergency Programs Intern
In June of 2021, PRIMED Medical Products partnered with GlobalMedic and Traffic Tech by donating 38 million level three masks to help combat COVID-19 in low-and middle-income countries. As a leading Canadian manufacturer and supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE), PRIMED has worked diligently to provide PPE to the Canadian healthcare system throughout the pandemic. With worldwide case counts of COVID-19 continuing to rise, PRIMED decided they could help support low-resource countries facing serious COVID-19 outbreaks with chronic PPE shortages.
GlobalMedic has identified the greatest areas of need for masks and is distributing them to healthcare workers around the world, with almost 20 million masks being sent to India and additional masks arriving in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Syria and Yemen. Masks will also be distributed to low-income countries in the Caribbean and South America including the Bahamas, Grenada and Guyana. Logistics company Traffic Tech has been integral in this process as they donate their time to packing the masks, loading them into sea containers and managing all the logistics associated with the process.
After extensive research, experts have confirmed that COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person via respiratory droplets that are released into the air when someone breathes, talks, coughs, or sneezes. The CDC states that when worn correctly over the mouth and nose, masks are an effective barrier that helps prevent one person’s respiratory droplets from reaching other people. Wearing a mask is critical for anyone showing symptoms of the virus, but it is also incredibly important that those not experiencing symptoms also wear masks to protect those around them. Several studies across multiple countries have found that people can be infected by the COVID-19 virus without developing symptoms (asymptomatic).
Therefore, even if someone does not appear to have COVID-19, their respiratory droplets can still carry the virus. The World Health Organization, the Centre for Disease Control, and many academics, scientists, epidemiologists, and international experts have ruled masks safe to wear and effective at suppressing the transmission of COVID-19 and the virus variants. Additionally, as cloth and surgical masks are not airtight to the face, there is no risk of the wearer retaining excess carbon dioxide.
While all individuals are strongly advised to wear face masks, the importance of access to high-quality masks and PPE for healthcare workers around the world must be further emphasized. Frontline and healthcare workers are operating in roles that significantly increase their risk of encountering someone with the COVID-19 virus. Without proper PPE, their risk of contracting the virus skyrockets. While providing them with PPE seems like a simple solution, globally disrupted manufacturing and supply chains have left many countries with a critical shortage of these products. Many high-income countries are successfully mitigating this issue, low-and middle-income countries are falling through the cracks.
India, a country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, experienced as many as 400,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in the months of March – June 2021. The country surpassed the United States to record the world’s highest one-day surge in cases. According to Indian media outlets, the government struggled to cope with the surge in demand for PPE during these months and the availability of triple-layer surgical masks was highly compromised. A Reuters agency report indicated that India needed over 100,000 PPE kits per day to meet this demand.
Healthcare workers were disproportionately impacted by these shortages as many were working directly with COVID-19 positive patients without the basic equipment to protect themselves from the virus. Some doctors even reported using raincoats or motorbike helmets as a form of make-shift PPE. Many of these health professionals have since contracted the virus and the hospitals they were working at were forced to close to control the outbreaks.
As more masks were made available to India, both through international donations and a massive productive scale-up by the country’s textile industry, COVID-19 cases began to decline. As of August 2021, 95% of citizens report that they regularly wear a mask and new cases have fallen from an average of 400,000 per day to 40,000 per day. While this number is a massive improvement, the risk of rising case counts remains, and there remains a need for high-quality PPE.
The 38 million masks donated by PRIMED will go a long way in supporting the fight against COVID-19 in India and the many other countries that will receive masks. The partnership between GlobalMedic, PRIMED, and Traffic Tech has been highly successful at getting these masks to some of the most vulnerable populations in countries throughout the world. While there is a great deal of work left to be done to support low-resource countries through this global pandemic, companies like PRIMED and Traffic Tech are leading the way with generosity and vigor.