New standards on medical masks, gloves and gowns to respond to COVID-19

Speech by UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam Caitlin Wiesen at dissemination workshop

January 11, 2022

H.E Mr. Do Xuan Tuyen, Vice Minister, Ministry of Health

Mr. Nguyen Minh Loi, Director General, Department of Medical Equipment and Construction, Ministry of Health;

Mr. Do Thanh Hai, Director General, Institute of Medical Equipment and Construction, Ministry of Health;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate Viet Nam for formally issuing 13 new standards for medical masks, gloves, and gowns all critical to the protection of front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19, that are equivalent to international standards. UNDP was honored to provide technical support for the preparation of these standards. I would like to thank the Ministry of Health for organizing this important workshop to ensure the new standards are disseminated widely for adoption by the healthcare system.                                        

In 2020, the emergence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an extraordinary increase in demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE. Export bans and lockdowns in manufacturing countries throughout the world meant that many countries suffered  serious shortages of medical masks, gowns and gloves.

In the case of Viet Nam, COVID-19 also prompted a review of PPE quality standards in order to strengthen the protection of frontline healthcare sector and public health workers and to identify opportunities for domestic manufacturers to improve the quality of their supplies to meet domestic needs as well as  to respond to demand for exports. This required Viet Nam to develop a new system of standards and regulations for medical masks, gloves and gowns that is equivalent to international specifications as advised by the World Health Organization.

In that context, UNDP, with support from the Government of Japan, is proud of having provided technical support to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Science and Technology, and other related stakeholders through sharing best practices, mobilizing leading international and national experts, organizing consultation meetings and site visits to develop these 13 new standards that MOH introduced today. The new standards will help the “safe adaptation to COVID-19” as highlighted by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

However, the promulgation of standards is not the final step in this important work. It is now necessary for these standards to become part of the manufacturing process and adopted for use by healthcare workers and other PPE users as an integral part of the response to Covid-19. Therefore, at this workshop, UNDP would like to recommend the following key follow up actions:

Firstly, for manufacturers it is vital to adopt these new standards to increase the competitive advantage of Vietnamese PPE products in both domestic and export markets.

Secondly, for organizational users such as the provincial Centers for Disease Control and healthcare facilities it is critically important to include the new standards in their criteria for purchasing medical masks, gloves, and gowns in order to provide better protection for healthcare personnel. Thirdly, the MOH should update these standards in the PPE inventory management system developed last year by UNDP and the Department of Medical Equipment and Construction to make sure the standards and the system will be used by the health sector nationwide.

Fourthly, the mass media should share the new standards widely in order to raise the awareness of the public on what medical masks, gloves, and gowns they should buy and use to protect their families and themselves. This will, in turn, create effective market demand and drive manufacturers to enhance their product quality. And, last but not least, the government should continue to play a key role in strengthening the healthcare sector through providing support and guidance for promoting dissemination and adoption of the new standards.

On this occasion, I would like to re-confirm UNDPs continued and strengthened support to the health sector in Viet Nam for the Covid-19 response as a central part of our important long-term MOH-UNDP partnership. Through our current work in support of  the health sector including health systems strengthening and health procurement, UNDP has supported the rapid procurement of RT-PCR machines for COVID-19 testing through our global procurement platform.

Responding to the request of the Ministry of Health, UNDP has also identified 22 medical items that could be procured by the Government with assistance of UNDP, using a proven system which offers transparent, cost-effective and quality assured procurement solutions.

The same system applies for the procurement of ARV’s. Through UNDPs global platform we are able to obtain reasonable lead-times and competitive prices for essential medicines. We standby to provide this support, do count on us.

UNDP is supporting Viet Nam on health system strengthening through digital tools including a grassroots telehealth solution connecting commune health stations in remote areas in three provinces to district and higher-level health facilities.

UNDP is also supporting socio-economic assessments and responses and providing policy options for a green, inclusive economic rebound for building forward better from Covid-19 impacts. This includes support to people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable and highly impacted groups, in order to ensure that no one is left behind.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently said: “COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic humanity will face. As we respond to this health crisis, we need to prepare for the next one”.  I believe that with our joint efforts, we will be able to build a strong healthcare sector for Viet Nam to cope with any future problems.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health for the promulgation of these new standards and stress the importance of raising the standards of Viet Nam’s PPE in line with international standards to better protect front-line workers and the Vietnamese people. I would also like to thank the Government of Japan for their support to this activity as part of their support to UNDP and to Viet Nam for the Covid-19 response.

I hope you will have fruitful discussions today.

I wish you all good health and to stay safe.

Thank you.