Local industry production of medical protection equipment to escalate amid COVID-19 outbreak

A hand waiting for a squeeze of hand sanitizer on a blue background.

Local industry is increasing domestic production of medical protective equipment such as surgical face masks, sanitizer, goggles and gowns amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Med-Con Pty Ltd, a manufacturer near Shepparton in regional Victoria, has increased production with the support of the government and the Australian Defence Force.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said work is underway to significantly increase their manufacturing capability over time to meet demand as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.

“From helping to access new equipment to providing staff, we are doing what we can to enable companies like Med-Con to ramp up production and boost our domestic capacity,” Minister Andrews said.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said around a dozen ADF personnel are helping under Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) arrangements.

“The team, which is comprised of highly qualified engineering maintenance specialists from the Army Logistic Training Centre and the Joint Logistics Unit – Victoria, are supporting the request,” Minister Reynolds said.

“These skilled soldiers are with the company’s existing staff on production, maintenance and warehousing tasks.

“The Defence support will fill a short-term gap while Med-Con Pty Ltd recruits and trains supplementary staff. This is an example of the kind of exceptional circumstances which the DACC rules are designed to cover.”

In addition the Government has put out a Request for Information (RFI) to get a further understanding of the manufacturing capability and capacity that exists domestically, so that as a country, we are well-positioned to increase production of these products at home.

Australian industry is further ramping up local manufacturing of hand sanitiser  amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile managing Director of Ego Pharmaceuticals, which makes Aqium sanitiser in Melbourne, Alan Oppenheim said they’ve drastically increased how much they are making.

“In February we made five times what we forecast and our factory is now running 24 hours a day, five days a week,” Mr Oppenheim said.

“We’re currently hiring to increase that to six days a week and we’ve stopped our little bit of exporting to prioritise Australian needs.”

The federal government has also worked with manufacturers to ensure supply of ethanol – one of the key ingredients in hand sanitiser.

“I want to stress to Australians that we have the capacity and the raw ingredients here to continue to meet the increased demand,” Science and Technology Karen Andrews said.

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