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March 26, 2020

Corona challenge: Punjab, Sindh govts order stopping manufacturing of soap, sanitizers

Top Story

March 26, 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab and Sindh governments also ordered stopping production and supply of some essential items including soaps and hand sanitizers in the wake of lockdown against the spread of coronavirus.

The provincial governments did not include the soap manufacturers in the exemption list, ignoring the importance of soaps and hand sanitizers in the fight against pandemic.

Pakistan Soap Manufacturers Association (PSMA) Chairman Zafar Mahmood while talking to The News said the soap and hand sanitizers as essential healthcare products were missing in the notifications issued by the Punjab and Sindh governments regarding the lockdowns against the spread of Covid-19. “The PSMA has formally written letters to the two provincial governments, requesting them to specifically include soap and hand sanitizers as essential healthcare products in the notifications issued with regard to lockdowns against the spread of Covid-19,” he said. There are 166 members of PSMA engaged in soap manufacturing in the country, out of which almost 60 percent belong to Punjab, 30 percent Sindh and remaining 10 percent to rest of the country.

Due to current lockdowns against Covid-19, the industrial activities have been closed in almost whole of the country. However, certain industries engaged in the production of essential products like food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare etc have been exempted from the closure.

Zafar Ahmed mentioned that soap and hand sanitizers were the only products which have been found effective for protection against coronavirus. The government is also repeatedly advertising and persuading the general public to wash hand with soap. The PSMA requested the provincial governments to specifically exempt the manufacturing and distribution of soaps and hand sanitizers from the lockdown. He further said in case the production activities of our members are forced to close down, there will be an acute shortage of soap and hand sanitizers and the entire country will be deprived of the only available remedy against the coronavirus.

The PSMA members have already undertaken strict measures to protect their staff by employing appropriate PPEs. In the absence of clear instructions, the law-enforcement agencies are not allowing the staff and vehicles of soap making companies to move and also forcing the companies to close down their operations. Further, a number of PSMA members also produced glycerin which is an important raw material for the pharmaceutical industry and closing of these units can also cause shortage and issues for the pharmaceutical industry of the country. Glycerin is also being used as one of basic components in locally-made sanitizer and non-availability of it due to industry closure will also affect domestic hand sanitizer production, he believed.

On Wednesday, the PSMA representatives met with the Lahore commissioner other authorities concerned to raise the issue. However, the government officials informed the PSMA representatives that the government was permitting only exporters to run their plants for specific period (3-5 days) based on an affidavit along with confirmed orders. The government officials said the soap manufacturers can also get same exemption by submitting the details of confirmed export orders for 4-5 days only.

However, the soap industry representatives mentioned that the soap manufacturers required continued production to cope with the situation. But the government officials were least bothered and did not grant any exemption to the soap industry.

PSMA chairman said everyone in the country including government was repeatedly requesting people to wash hands with soap. “But the administration is unable to understand the importance of the soap industry,” he said, adding that the administration was not allowing staff vans and more than two persons in one car despite the fact there was no ban on movement of trucks but the soap industry trucks were stopped and confiscated and they were being released on personal assurances.