NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 2 – Kenya is currently producing over 2 million face masks locally on a daily basis, according to new data from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
The quality watchdog says the production of the critical equipment in the fight against COVID-19 has been bolstered following a rise in the number of certified manufacturing companies from an initial 2 to 105, since March when Kenya reported her first case of the virus.
“Most of these firms produce more than 20,000 face masks per day. This, therefore, means that the number of face masks being produced in the country on a daily basis is sufficient,” KEBS Managing Director Bernard Njiraini told Capital Business in an exclusive interview.
Njiraini said the Bureau has issued 13 new standards for the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to support the government’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
These include standards for manufacturing face masks – both medical and non-medical, medical examination gloves, face shields, and coveralls, among others.
For instance, the quality watchdog has developed the KS2636 standard for manufacturing quality medical grade face masks.
Njiraini said the Bureau is currently offering all standards for manufacturing PPEs for free as the company’s corporate responsibility, as well as a means of promoting local businesses that would ordinarily have to pay to acquire the standards.
What makes a good face mask?
Njiraini has urged Kenyans to look out for basic features that determine whether a face mask meets the right standards.
For one, a quality face mask must have the right dimensions which makes it comfortable, as well as protective.
It must also have the right design, which means it should be 3-ply. The outermost layer must be hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb moisture.
Meanwhile, the middle layer should have a filter element to ascertain that it blocks out viruses and organisms.
A good face mask must also have an innermost layer that absorbs moisture from the mouth.
Additionally, it should have good straps that do not break easily.
“A good mask is packaged well and has a quality mark from KEBS. If its an ‘S’ mark, it should have a permit number that we have issued to the manufacturing company. You can send the permit number to 20023 to get a response about the manufacturer of the product.
Sub-standard face masks
The MD said KEBS has been undertaking market surveillance to ensure all protective gear produced and distributed meet the right standards.
With the number of sub-standard face masks flooding the market, Njiraini underscored that measures have been put in place to protect Kenyans notably by rooping in relevant agencies such as the Anti-Counterfeit Agency, to ensure that such items are seized before circulation.
“Most of these sub-standard items are getting to Kenya through porous borders, but relevant agencies are working tirelessly to seize and stop them, as is our mandate to protect consumers against substandard products that might be harmful to or compromise their health and safety.”
At the same time, Njiraini encouraged SMEs interested in venturing into the business of making face masks to not shy away, saying the Bureau has put in place lucrative measures.
As such, KEBS has reduced the fee for the application for the standard mark to Sh5,800 inclusive of VAT.
“Our mandate is to facilitate trade and we have developed a policy, the micro small medium enterprises policy, to encourage SMEs to standardize their products. We have been reaching out to them to acquires standardization for their products,” he said.
Njiraini spoke ahead of the re-launch of the ‘Wajibika Na KEBS’ campaign which seeks to help the Bureau fight the sale of sub-standard products in the market.