Hyderabad: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India’s largest research organisation, has been tracking the spread of Coronavirus since it first started spreading in Wuhan, China. The first case of Coronavirus in India was reported on 30 January. In two months the total number of cases has reached 700. With consistent monitoring, the DRDO has understood the gravity of the situation and chances of proliferation within India. It has started focusing on creating mass supply of critical medical requirements if COVID-19 becomes a crisis.

As a result of the focused research, DRDO is ready to supply four items – hand sanitisers, critical care ventilator, N95 advanced masks, bodysuits – to be deployed in the fight against Coronavirus.

DRDO first developed hand sanitisers, the basic item to prevent the spread of the virus. By the third week of March, it had produced sizable quantities and distributed it to major offices and establishments within Delhi.

Approximately, 4000 litres of hand sanitisers has been sent to the Indian Armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the armed force medical core, and DSC, while 1,500 litres have been sent to the MoD, and 300 litres to the Parliament. Over 50 litres have been sent to various security establishments and high offices to ensure that administration work continues without fear of contamination. The DRDO also has 2,000 three-ply masks and 1,000 litres of hand sanitizers. It can provide around 20,000 litres of hand sanitiser, produced by DRDE, Gwalior, to its employees and government offices and ministries. The DRDO has also tied up with Gwalior Alco Brew Private Limited to make hand sanitisers according to the WHO formulation. As of now, it produces 20 to 30,000 litres a day at a cost of Rs. 120 per litre, including GST. Availability of 200 and 500 ml bottles, however, has become a problem.

Since Coronavirus affects the pulmonary functions, DRDO’s SBMT programme was modified and critical care ventilators were created using existing technologies like breath regulators and pressure/flow sensors. At present, efforts are on to make a multi-patient ventilator wherein several patients can be supported by a single ventilator. This is expected to be completed within a week and is already under production. DRDO’s vendor, Scanray Tech Pvt Ltd in Mysore, can produce 5,000 ventilators in the first month and after that more than 10,000 per month. However, the availability of the components is an issue. The DRDO has already identified local alternatives and industries to supply critical components.

Another critical item to prevent Coronavirus is the N99 advanced mask, a five-layer mask with two layers of nanomesh. DRDO’s vendors, Venus Industries in Mumbai and IMTEC in Kolkata, can manufacture 10,000 per day, as of now. However, the problem is the Ahmedabad firm that is supplying the material, ATIRA, is also fulfiling government orders for N95 masks.

Bodysuit is a critical requirement for doctors, medical staff, and sanitation workers. Earlier, the DRDO had developed bodysuits for medical and para-medical staff in the event of radiological emergencies. It has now been converted into a full-body suit to stop COVID-19 contamination. The suit is washable and has passed the ASTM standards. They are being designed and tested by Frontier Protective Wear Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, and Medikit Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. They can produce 10,000 bodysuits a day at a cost of Rs 7,000 per bodysuit.

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