Use certified PPEs to combat Covid-19 transmission

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
From second left: Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia (second left) and his Interior and Health counterparts Fred Matiang’i (centre) and Mutahi Kagwe (second right), respectively, receive a consignment of medical supplies from China, flown to the country by a Kenya Airways 787 Dreamliner.

Bernard Njiraini 

Two weeks ago a woman and her daughter were captured on camera wearing improvised masks made of plastic bottles at the Likoni channel.

Her sense of personal responsibility to combat the spread of coronavirus did not go unnoticed.

Days later, the county leadership provided the woman with proper face masks and some Sh100,000 to buy basic needs.

Susan Kageha took precaution rather than resign to fate and despondency. Her story signifies the increasing realisation by Kenyans that they bear responsibility in the fight against Covid-19. 

As the government and relevant agencies propagate containment measures, the citizens required to play their part in the fight against the pandemic.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) are key to curbing widespread transmission through droplets when one sneezes or coughs.

PPEs such as masks act as barriers to direct transmission of infectious agents that could be from external environment or by the wearer.

However, an effective mask must factor in the filtration capacity, efficiency of the material, capacity to absorb moisture and the fit of the mask on the wearer’s face.

It behooves all to ascertain the quality of the mask one is purchasing.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), working with the Health ministry and the Department of Industrialisation, has tested samples of various PPEs to ensure they meet the quality thresholds and are safe for human use. 

Verified and certified equipment will help stem the spread of the virus. We are sensitising Kenyans on the certified sanitisers, masks as well as cautioning them to beware of unscrupulous traders out to capitalise on the pandemic.

We have ramped up our market surveillance activities to ensure PPEs sold in the market meet the required standards.

 As part of a multi-agency team, Kebs has began crackdown on rogue traders selling uncertified sanitisers and masks.

The Standards Act Cap 496 provides for a fine or imprisonment for anyone who fails to provide samples for tests and inspection. 

KEBS has a multi-faceted mandate – as the custodian of standardization services, conformity assessments as well as a facilitator of fair and just trade. We have allowed free access to Standards that will guide manufacturers in the production of PPEs.

We are holding consultative meetings with local manufacturers including Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, factories, universities and other entrepreneurs.

We guide them on the requirements including the materials, composition, type, workmanship, design, size, test methods, labeling, and packaging of surgical masks and other PPEs.

Currently, there are two Kenya Standards relating to medical face masks including KS 2636:2016 that specifies materials, composition, type, workmanship, design, size, test methods, labelling, and packaging of surgical masks and KS 2409-6:2018 on filtering face masks to protect against particles.

The surgical masks offer one-way protection – capturing droplets from the wearer while the N95 offers two-way protection by filtering air entering of exiting the wearer. 

Use of face masks and social distancing are critical containment measures as well as personal hygiene including regular hand-washing with soap and use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers to prevent the exposure and spread of the virus. 

Manufacturers are encouraged to consult Kebs for guidance on quality and certification of PPEs.

The public and traders, on the other hand, must check the validity of the Standardization Mark permit on products being sold or purchased by sending the code (numbers) underneath the Standardization Mark logo to 20023 (i.e. type message SM#Code and SMS to 20023) to get product manufacturing details and permit validity status or ISM#code for imported products.

If the details are different, retailers should not purchase, stock or offer for sale the products but report to KEBS Toll Free Number 1545.   

We must all recognise that, the fight against coronavirus is ours all. We must work together. —The writer is the Managing Director, Kenya Bureau of Standards

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