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July 11, 2020

Govt ties lifting ban on N95 mask exports with sufficient local supply

Business

July 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government will lift ban on export of N95 masks that are in much demand internationally amid the coronavirus outbreak only if production is found sufficient to meet local demand, commerce adviser said on Friday.

“A number of businessmen have approached me for allowing the exports of N95 masks, which is banned by the cabinet,” said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Razak Dawood. “Exports of N95 masks cannot be allowed at this moment, unless it is backed by statistical evidence that local demands are being fulfilled, and the production is in surplus quantities.”

Last month, the federal cabinet lifted the ban on export of all items of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hand sanitisers, disposable gowns and gloves, face shields, biohazard bags, goggles and shoe covers, made from various classes of materials, including woven and non-woven chlorinated polyethylene, polypropylene, spunbond and meltblown, with the exception of N-95 and surgical masks and tyvek suits. The pandemic jacked up demand of these products almost across the world. The cabinet constituted a committee represented by all relevant stakeholders to review the local stock positions of PPE, from time to time, in order to ensure that exports do not result in local shortages.

Presiding over the committee’s meeting, Dawood said the country needs to fully exploit the opportunities arising out of Covid-19, in terms of increase in demands for PPE worldwide, but with a strategy to have enough supplies available throughout the country.

“Federal and provincial health departments should work on projections for future demands so that an accurate picture can be painted in relation to the export of these items,” he said. “Ministry of commerce will go to the next meeting to get all provincial stakeholders on board with regards to provision of precise information, which can help the committee to take timely decisions as per its mandate.” The adviser informed the meeting that export of allowed items of PPE is providing impetus to meet the export targets of the government.

The committee showed satisfaction that no shortages of PPE have been reported ever since the export of majority of items was allowed by the federal cabinet.

The meeting was attended by the Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Hussain, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, and others.

Hussain said local industry has enhanced its capacity for PPE production. “We are receiving interests from foreign investors as well.”