In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, a UAE-based company is investing $1 million (3.6 million UAE dirhams) to set up a production facility for face masks and medical kits, to help address the growing shortage of healthcare supplies faced by countries hit by the virus.

IBC Group, a boutique real estate and tech investment firm, told Zawya that the facility will be set up by its affiliate, Regal Global Trading, and is due to begin production in another 45 days.

Workers are expected to produce 300,000 to 600,000 face masks daily, the bulk of which will be sent to China, the epicentre of the virus.

“We are setting up a factory in the UAE and we plan to increase our capacity to 300,000 and double it every month moving forward, depending on the severity and spread of the epidemic,” said Khurram Shroff, chairman of the IBC Group.

He said the exact location has yet to be finalised, with Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (Rakez) or Al Quoz being the two options under consideration. The company has placed orders for the machinery and aims to have the factory operational in a maximum of 45-60 days.

The company has private equity investments in real estate, art and property technology, while its affiliate, Regal Global Trading operates across the world in 78 countries and has a diverse product portfolio from the UAE, including textiles, building materials, heavy equipment, machinery, fast-moving consumer goods and beauty products.

Biggest challenge

The deadly virus that started in Wuhan, China in late December has now spread to more than 100 countries and infected more than 100,000 individuals. Panic over how fast the illness is spreading has driven shortages of masks not just in China but also in the UAE and the rest of the world.

Shroff said that one of the biggest challenges the outbreak presents is that people are contracting the disease at a rapid rate, overwhelming healthcare services.

“We encourage all businesses that have the capacity to address this emerging need to set aside the profit motive and collaborate with each other. All our efforts are needed to protect ourselves within the UAE, and also in order that we can play a meaningful role in addressing the global demand for protective gear and medical kits,” Shroff told Zawya.

The chairman of the group said that the company will scale up production after monitoring the situation.

Once the “initial goal” is achieved, they will monitor and analyse the situation over the following month, to about 45 days, he said.  

“We are hoping to respond by doubling our production capacity by the end of this period if this situation unfolds as experts are suggesting it might. We are hoping that the severity of the pandemic recedes, but now, indications are that the risk of infection might continue to require widespread intervention, in order for it to be contained, over the immediate future,” he added.

China is the biggest manufacturer of medical face masks, reportedly producing 20 million daily.

However, since the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese shipments to pharmacies overseas have dwindled as production was reduced by half and local demand skyrocketed. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)



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