This move comes following a significant shortage of PPE in many countries greatly impacting their containment efforts of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. It also aims to protect frontline health workers and can reduce community transmission of the pandemic.
Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the global demand for high-quality PPE products, including face masks, medical gloves, safety glasses, shoes, respirators, coveralls, vests, and full bodysuits, increased by three to four times between 2019 and 2020.
As it will take time to deliver large-scale vaccinations to the global population, demand for PPE products is anticipated to continue growing at between 6% and 9% annually until at least 2025, according to a recent study funded by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
In terms of the nation, PPE manufacturing capacity witnessed a six-fold jump in production in 2020, with the country emerging as one of the new PPE suppliers globally. This ramped-up supply was initially driven by textile manufacturers shifting their production in response to the health emergency and in an effort to mitigate losses caused by cancelled orders for garments.
"Some textile manufacturers who started producing PPE products as an immediate response to the pandemic, are now considering the medium to longer-term business opportunity in this area," said Vu Duc Giang, chairman of Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association.
"However, local manufacturers have struggled with insufficient input materials, technical skills and sector knowledge, and disparity between local and international standards to access global market", Giang noted.
In response to these challenges and as part of the global PPE advisory scheme supported by the UK Government, the IFC is working with local garment manufacturers through the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) and national labs through the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality of Vietnam (STAMEQ). This is being done with the primary aim of improving the operations of PPE producers and to reduce costs by removing unnecessary burdens related to PPE standards and conformity assessments.
A webinar titled PPE Supply and Demand Perspectives was organised on June 10 in Hanoi in collaboration with VITAS. This marks the first of a series of events held with the intention of boosting PPE-related industry knowledge, with a specific focus on technical requirements and standards for PPE products in different markets.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of supply chains to the limit, especially on medical supplies including personal protective equipment. The UK believes that the diversification of PPE manufacturing will make the global supply chain more adaptable and prevent future disruption," said British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward.
"I am very pleased that Vietnam has been chosen as a priority country for this UK government-funded programme. Vietnamese companies have a lot of potential to succeed globally with a skilled labour force," the UK diplomat emphasised.
Over the next 18 months, the project will also support select manufacturers who are keen to improve the quality of their PPE production, whilst also helping them to access reliable supply of materials and equipment, along with producing PPE up to an international standard with the correct certification to expand exports.
"Access to cost-effective and quality PPE products is vital to national COVID-19 responses, helping contain and manage the spread of the coronavirus," said Kyle Kelhofer, country manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. "Promoting production of PPE products in compliance with international standards not only helps increase Vietnam's resilience to the pandemic, but also presents a business case as the PPE global supply chain is diversifying with opportunities for new manufacturers from emerging markets, including Vietnam."