As the world continues to grapple with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) governments, corporates, institutions and individuals across the world are coming together in an effort to save the lives of infected patients and to protect those that are working on the frontline among them healthcare workers and other essential service providers.
However, due to the disruptive effects of the pandemic, most counties do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitary products which are needed to protect people from exposure. Zimbabwe like most nations has not been spared and is in urgent need of PPE, sanitary products and other medical supplies.
For this reason, the Government has made a clarion call through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development for universities and colleges to spearhead research and innovation aimed at assisting the nation in the fight against COVID-19. Midlands State University has heeded this call and it is all hands on deck as the University is now manufacturing hand sanitiser and face masks.
The hand sanitiser, which was officially launched on Friday the 3rd of April 2020 by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in the Midlands Province, Honourable Senator Larry Mavima at the University’s Incubation Hub is part of preventative measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking during the launch of the hand sanitiser, the Minister of State commended Midlands State University for investing its resources and responding timeously to the need for sanitary products.
“Allow me to commend MSU for investing its intellectual and scientific resources to produce this hand sanitizer in a cost-effective manner … Government is looking to universities to dedicate their intellectual infrastructure, scientific knowledge and facilities to fight not only COVID-19 but other challenges facing our nation”, said Honourable Mavima.
In his address, Midlands State University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Victor N. Muzvidziwa said the alcohol-based hand sanitiser being manufactured by the University is in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“The World Health Organisation recommends that a hand sanitiser that can kill the coronavirus must have an alcohol concentration of 60% and above. I am happy to report that this sanitiser we are launching today has 70% alcohol concentration and is also manufactured from resources that have been mobilised locally”, said Prof. Muzvidziwa.
The production of the hand sanitiser is being led by internationally renowned chemist and member of the Midlands State University COVID-19 Task Force, Dr Gift Mehlana, whose team is working closely with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs, Professor Doreen Z. Moyo. Production output is currently set at 5 000 litres per day, but this is expected to increase as the process becomes fully automated. The hand sanitiser is being packaged in 100ml, 200 ml, 1 litre and 5-litre bottles to cater for individual, household and institutional consumers.
On the other hand, to help alleviate the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Midlands State University is also producing face masks, after consultations with members of the medical fraternity. The University is currently producing 3000 face masks per day, but again the number is expected to increase as new measures are being put in place.
Going forward the University is set to produce medical scrubs, nurse aid uniforms and surgical gowns, with the procurement of the raw materials already underway.