Tendai Rupapa and Joseph Madzimure
Five State universities with engineering and technology capacity have been roped in to produce personal protective equipment and sanitisers to help combat the spread of coronavirus.
Further, Government has also bolstered efforts to capacitate Verify Engineering, a technology development parastatal under the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, to produce 30 tonnes of medical oxygen monthly.
Verify Engineering is a research company for the Government and has the capacity to produce medical oxygen for the local market, as well as for export.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira, who is a member of the Covid-19 taskforce, said preparatory work was 99 percent complete.
“Verify Engineering has an oxygen plant and they work with universities, but they are not a university,” he said.
“They are a parastatal, a research company for the Government of Zimbabwe. We are going to capacitate it to produce medical oxygen as soon as possible. The company has the capacity to satisfy both the Zimbabwean and export markets.”
Prof Murwira emphasised that all was being done in response to the science, technology and medical needs of the country.
The University of Zimbabwe, Bindura University of Science Education, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Midlands State University and the National University of Science and Technology have since been tasked to produce sanitisers and personal protective equipment.
“As soon as materials that are required are there, we will then move in the right direction,” said Prof Murwira.
“We are 99 percent there, but cannot say the exact date we will be starting the manufacturing.’’
Prof Murwira said the universities had the capacity to produce 15 000 litres of sanitisers a day.
“UZ has the capability of producing 10 000 litres per day, while Bindura can also produce between 2 000 and 3 000 litres; so we expect Chinhoyi, MSU and NUST to account for the remainder,” he said.
“We have chemistry labs and the capacity to produce.
“The universities are ready to do so. CUT, UZ, MSU also have the capacity, if given the specifications of the protective clothing, to make protective clothing for our workers in the frontline of fighting Covid-19.
“We are in the process of making sure that they fulfil this.
“These are the fruits of the re-orientation of our Higher and Tertiary Education towards innovation and industrialisation.”
Prof Murwira said Government was going to work with the remaining critical staff at the universities.
“The universities are closed and there have been guidelines on who the critical staff are,” he said.
“We are going to follow the Government’s guideline to let people who are at the forefront of fighting Covid-19 to be at work so that they are able to save lives.
“We are under the direction of President Mnangagwa and the taskforce that he set up, so we act within the limits that are given.
“A budget will be provided for critical things that are needed for the nation and I am sure that it would be provided.
“I am confident that the gap we have had was of capability, not necessarily funding. The universities will be submitting their budgets and will get the support needed to make sure this nation is able to face the challenge posed by Covid-19.”
The sanitisers produced by the universities, Prof Murwira said, conformed to the standards set by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe deputy executive director Ms Rosemary Mpofu has said the council noted the proliferation of sanitisers and protective clothing on the market and was monitoring their quality to ensure they met the required standards.
“As CCZ we are monitoring the sanitisers very closely,” she said.
“In fact, we were the first ones to make a report to the Ministry of Health and Child Care about the issue of sanitisers.
“We also made a report to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to look not just at the standards of the product, but also at the prices.
“SAZ is testing the sanitisers from all manufacturers. As CCZ we urge all the manufacturers to approach SAZ.
“They have got laboratories with the capacity to test the quality and standards of sanitisers.”
Ms Mpofu said gloves could also be tested through the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe and manufacturers were free to approach them.
Sanitisers are based on alcohol, usually isopropyl alcohol, although ethanol can also be used, with a few additives.
In the United States, to meet demand, ethanol producers have been allowed to enter the market by having the high taxes ethanol attracts suspended for the duration of the emergency.