As Lebanon moves in to confront the COVID-19 outbreak that has already claimed thousands of lives around the world, textile workshops, such as a former school uniform workshop in Sidon, are moving to produce medical scrubs and other, much-needed equipment.
Across the world, the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak is spreading and Lebanon is no exception. Fear of the virus has hit the country hard owing to its large, densely-populated cities as well as the state of the Lebanese healthcare system, which was under pressure even before the outbreak started. It is unsurprising that many businesses and institutions have shut their doors to prevent the spread of the disease.
Such is not the case, however, in a workshop in Saida (Sidon) which has remained busy through the crisis. The workshop, which once produced school, is now producing medical scrubs used in hospitals and designed to prevent infections. The women working and in charge of this workshop see their work as a humanitarian and national duty by helping the medical professionals at the front-lines of the fight against the virus. Coming at a time when hospitals across the world are suffering shortages of clean masks, scrubs, gloves and other equipment, the efforts of these women here could ensure that doctors, nurses and EMTs have a reduced risk of being infected, ensuring that they can go on with their work to save their patients.
On a daily basis, the workshop created 300 to 400 scrubs which are then sold to hospitals, medical dispensaries, municipalities, as well as the Red Cross which uses these scrubs for its disinfection teams. The revenues generated towards paying the workers, many of whom are the only earners in their families as more and more businesses across Lebanon shut down or suspend their activities.
Although the main focus of the workers here is supporting the medical professions, they are also conscious of their own health. The workshop implemented serious precautions to ensure that the virus does not spread between the workers or, worse, through the scrubs they make. The total number of staff present in the workshop at a given time has been reduced and all workers are required to wear gloves and masks. They also undertake regular disinfection of the workshop and the equipment, as well as disinfecting the raw materials brought in.
Like most countries in the region, Lebanon stands particularly vulnerable to the crisis due to its struggling economy, deteriorating utilities and uncertain political state. This risk is compounded by the country being one of the most densely-urbanised areas in the region. With shortages almost certain to take place should the outbreak escalate, the work of the women here in Saida may have already saved many lives.