“We’ll continue making them every day until they no longer need them,” the Ecuadorean volunteer explained.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has become the second worst-hit country in the region with over 980 infected as of Monday and with the rapid spread of the virus the country now faces a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for its health workers.
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Yet this grim reality became an opportunity for a group of Ecuadoreans business owners and enthusiasts of 3-D printing to join together and apply their knowledge to produce much-needed equipment for the doctors and nurses fronting the virus.
“As soon as the news came, we started to think and talk about ways to help…we saw there was a need for protective gear and realized we could help,” Mateo Arcos, co-coordinator of the Hacking COVID-10 EC initiative told teleSUR.
The group began with 60 volunteers that decided to produce face shields, which are PPEs that provide over the top, side, and front face protection against splash and splatter of fluid-borne pathogens. Now the initiative has over 280 volunteers.
The decision to opt for this was based on the fact many medical personel across the country were cutting off plastic bottles in order to make their own masks, crippling health workers’ ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is a clear scarcity of it so we opted to make them, also as it was the more viable option,” Arcos added.
The design process took less than a week but soon after private companies, non-governmental organizations and the government showed interest and supported their initiative. Now they will be receiving materials from both sectors in order to produce abut 800 masks a day that will be donated to the Ministry of Health.
“We’ll continue making them every day until they no longer need them,” the Ecuadorean volunteer explained. The first batch was produced Sunday and will be delivred this week coordinating logistically with local authorities.
Although there are no plans for the moment to produce other gear, Arcos told teleSUR that he is aware there are more and more groups organizing to begin producing surgical face masks and other equipment.
The country continues in a state of exception and quarantine and the armed forces were tasked Sunday to take over the coordination of the hard-hit zones, while the government tries to reel in financial and international cooperation to face the lack of funds and protective gear for medical staff.
Even its former Minister of Health Catalina Andramuño quit this week citing the lack of preparedness to front the pandemic and on Monday, the new Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos denied past claims that two million COVID-19 test kits were purchased, but rather just 200,000.
As of Monday, the country reported 981 cases and 18 deaths ranking it in the highest rates per million inhabitants. The worst-hit region within the country is located in the coastal port city of Guayaquil and its province Guayas, where more than 80 percent of the cases are reported.