With the demand for protective masks exploding across the world due to the spread of the coronavirus, import-dependent Switzerland has struggled to secure a supply of the life-saving devices.
The first Swiss-produced masks are set to be available from May, with manufacturers only now receiving the machines used to produce the masks.
As reported in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the machines were delayed in arriving in Switzerland, explaining why manufacturers have not been able to produce the masks earlier.
The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Switzerland on February 25th, while the first death from the virus took place on March 5th.
‘A lack of protective equipment’
Switzerland, which relies heavily on importing medical equipment like masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), has been at the mercy of international markets when it comes to securing the devices.
Masks are scarce all over the world, with Swiss authorities being forced to pay many times over usual market value in order to secure the devices.
Switzerland has also been at the mercy of neighbouring countries, with some countries stopping truckloads of protective equipment and hand sanitiser in order to keep it in their own countries.
Already being produced?
Daniel Koch, spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on March 20th that Switzerland was already producing masks and would have a capacity of 40,000 per month.
However, as reported in the NZZ, no masks have been made that reach hospital standards – either the IIR standard and FFP masks of level 2 or 3 – in Switzerland.
The Swiss military and the canton of Zurich purchased two machines which could make the masks in March but these were delivered late, with production only possible from the end of April.
Another company, Wernli, in the canton of Aargau, said it will also begin production.
Given the expected high demand of for the masks, the company has said it will prioritise public health institutions in issuing the first deliveries.