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China factory well suited to help in Ebola fight

Zhao Ruixue and Li Xiang
Updated: Oct 29,2014 8:13 AM     China Daily

Workers race against time to produce protective suits at the Lakeland Industries factory in Anqiu, Shandong province, on Oct 28.[Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

A factory in China is working day and night to help in the fight against the Ebola outbreak by producing protective suits for healthcare workers as demand surges.

The plant, in Anqiu, Shandong province, which is owned by US protective clothing manufacturer Lakeland Industries, has expanded its capacity.

Fears are continuing to mount over the Ebola out-break, with the deadly virus spreading to Europe and the United States.

Wang Ximin, the Anqiu plant’s general manager, said it has doubled its workforce and equipment output, with sales of its hazardous material suits rising by 30 to 40 percent from the same period last year.

Day and night shifts ensure almost nonstop production of 6,000 protective suits a day, Wang said. Most of them will be sent to virus-hit areas in West Africa and hospitals in the United States and Europe.

“We have seen a huge jump in orders for our products since mid-October and decided to add night shifts to meet the rapidly rising demand,” Wang said.

The outbreak has triggered lucrative sales for manufacturers, with the price of protective suits ranging from several dozen yuan to more than 1,000 yuan (about $160) on Internet shopping platform eBay.

Dealers say the main clients are governments and international agencies.

The suits produced by Lakeland in China are made to the same standard as those used by healthcare workers during the SARS and H1N1 flu outbreaks, Wang said.

Lakeland, which has head-quarters in New York, has decided to raise $11.2 million through a private stock sale to support the increased market demand, according to a media report.

DuPont, another US protective suits producer, said it has more than tripled its production since the start of the outbreak in March, while Kimberly-Clark, which makes protective disposable medical equipment, said it has seen a 20 to 30 percent rise in demand compared with the same time last year, Reuters reported.

Almost 5,000 people have been killed by the Ebola out-break and more than 10,000 have been infected in West Africa, according to figures from the World Health Organization. Japan reported suspected cases after the US and Europe confirmed several diagnoses.

Some experts have warned that in a worst-case scenario, 1.4 million people could be infected by January.

Wang, at Lakeland’s factory in Shandong province, said it will maintain its current production capacity as he sees no sign of a drop in orders amid the stronger international response to combat the virus.