Recent laboratory tests have shown that 48 percent of hand sanitisers and face masks produced locally have failed to meet the mandatory health standards and Government is now working with the manufacturers to improve the quality of the products, a Cabinet minister has said.
Since the gazetting of Statutory Instrument (SI) 92 of 2020, the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) and Bureau de Veritas were mandated by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to conduct conformity assessment procedures to attest compliance through laboratory testing and certification of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The SI in question, sets the standards required for the manufacture, sale and disposal of apparel, materials and equipment intended to be worn or used as protection against any formidable infectious disease by different categories of persons in their interaction with the public.
Statistics gathered by The Herald revealed that 24 out of 52 companies whose sanitiser samples were tested failed to meet the set standard.
Eleven companies passed the test while eight others conditionally passed but need to improve on labelling.
Of the 35 companies manufacturing general face masks, 17 were below the mandatory standards.
Eighteen companies’ products were up to standard but 15 of them required improvement on labelling.
Only one company had its gowns and caps tested and the products were up to standard.
Two companies whose face shields were tested for compliance passed the test while another company that produces face screens also succeeded.
Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza said a number of companies failed the test and Government was now working with them to improve on quality.
“A number of companies have not met the standards and quality. We are working with the companies that have failed tests and already we have recorded positive improvements from them.
“SAZ is currently working with the companies whose products were non-compliant, which are at various stages of conducting corrective action to ensure that their products meet the prescribed standards after their PPE failed the initial laboratory tests,” she said.
Minister Nzenza said her ministry was also engaging manufacturers and suppliers of PPEs to ensure the prices are affordable.
“As Ministry of Industry and Commerce, we have the mandate to implement standards and quality in order to ensure the health and safety of the people.
“At the same time, we work with the Consumer Protection Council to monitor the cost of PPEs and sanitisers,” she said.
Minister Nzenza has set up a taskforce to monitor and ensure compliance with the set standards.
The team comprises representatives from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Attorney General’s office, Police Anti-counterfeit & Anti-smuggling unit and SAZ.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce, working with key stakeholders like Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and SAZ has embarked on awareness campaigns on the mandatory standards for PPE and sanitisers.
This is to ensure that the implications are well known to the manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, shipping agents, law enforcement agencies and consumers alike.