AMMAN – COVID-19 has brought weeks of strict restrictions to the Jordanians, but also an unexpected industrial opportunity to the economically struggling Arab country.
A few weeks ago, King of Jordan Abdullah told the US CBS TV that his country was in condition to export masks and medical supplies, a surprising announcement for a country under total lockdown.
“We hope that in the coming weeks, depending on our capabilities, we can export medical equipment to neighboring countries and the world,” the monarch said.
And it seems that Jordan has already started the engine. Jordanian manufacturers began to produce or to increase their output of face masks and medical supplies first to meet the domestic need, with an eye on exportation.
Mazen Tantash, representative of the Therapeutic Sectors at the Jordan Chamber of Industry, told EFE that many textile companies have modified their process to produce masks and other necessary materials to fight the virus.
”Before the spread of COVID-19, our production of facemasks was modest ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 masks per day, but now it ranges between 160,000 and 175,000,” he said.
Jordanian factories were also producing other items related to curbing the spread of the virus such as testing kits, surgical gowns, protective overalls and gloves, he pointed out.
“Our production of testing kits will reach 60,000 per day shortly,” he said
Fine Hygienic Holding, a manufacturer of sanitized tissues, was one of the Jordanian firms that seized the opportunity offered by the outbreak to operate new lines for producing a high-quality face mask, the Fine Guard mask.
“We focus on the production of face masks, as we in Jordan currently produce 20,000 reusable masks per day,” Fine Hygienic Holding’s CEO James Lafferty told EFE.
The firm cooperates with a company from Switzerland to produce the Fine Guard face masks that can be washed and re-used up to 30 times.
“Our first customer is the Jordanian nation. After this we export to a wide variety of markets in the region as well as in Europe, Asia and Central/South America,” Lafferty said.
He revealed that his firm mulls over the possibility of doubling its production of face masks amid predictions that the demand could be sustainable into 2021.
“We are investigating scaling up to 50,000 masks per day, as we believe masks will be an important part of our lives at least until a vaccine is found for COVID-19,” Lafferty said.
Jordan has been one of the countries that imposed the severest measures to tackle the respiratory disease, including a 24-hour curfew that lasted for days and banning the printed newspaper.
The kingdom, of 10 million inhabitants, has reported less than 500 coronavirus cases while the death toll stands at eight.
The country has been easing the restrictions over the past few days, but some still stand. The manufacturers are obliged to meet domestic needs.
“The government wants a strategic stockpile of these items to be built up in the country sufficient for meeting local needs for at least six months,” Tantash said.
“I believe 20 percent of our production will be sufficient for covering local needs while 80 percent will be exported,” he added.
Arabellah for Medical Technologies is another Jordanian firm that is adapting its production process to include items relating to the fighting of COVID-19.
“We originally produced sanitized gowns for surgical operation rooms which we export to countries in the region, but we recently started to produce other products such as disposable face masks and white overalls used in protecting bodies against coronavirus infection,” the firm’s manager Omamah al-Zoabi told EFE.
“We currently produce about 100,000 masks and 3,000 overalls a day, but we are barred from exporting such items at this juncture, as priority is given for meeting local needs,” she said.
“We have been promised by the authorities to be granted an export permission shortly,” she added.